Syrian Airstrikes Expected to Increase as DoD Pushes for Expanded Ground Role
WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense has stated it will increase the number of airstrikes preformed in Syria in the coming weeks while urging the recent decrease in airstrikes has not been due to Russian involvement in the region.
During a press conference earlier this week, Army Col. Steve Warren spoke via teleconference from Baghdad to reporters in Washington to supply updates on the coalition campaign against ISIL dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve.
Warren stated the recent decrease in airstrikes in Syria has been due to a lack of intelligence regarding ISIL targets in the region and not to Russian involvement in the airspace.
At the end of September, Russian jets began striking targets in Syria and allegedly gave coalition forces an hour notice before they began, according to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
The DoD has been highly critical of Russia’s involvement of the region, comparing their actions to “pouring gasoline” onto a fire.
Warren also supplied data on the number of airstrikes conducted in the region from July to September. Seven hundred and one airstrikes were preformed in Syria in the three month period with the bulk of them being done in July.
In July OIR preformed 369 airstrikes compared to only 120 in September.
“The intelligence in Syria continues to pile up, and we continue to sift through it and develop targets and nominate targets,” Warren said.
The day prior Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke to the Senate Armed Forces Committee regarding the progress of OIR and where the US is headed in its fight against ISIL.
Carter stressed the strategy of the three R’s: Raqqa, Ramadi and Raids.
Raqqa is considered ISIL’s “stronghold” in the region and Carter stated the department’s plan to intensify airstrikes in the region with the aid of Jordanian air support.
Ramadi, Iraq, was taken by ISIL forces in May 2015 and has been the subject of international conversations as many believe ISIL has been systematically killing residents in the area.
The final piece of the US strategy against ISIL is raids. Earlier this month Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed by small arms fire when freeing 70 hostages from an ISIL prison and became the first US casualty in the war against ISIL.
The DoD hopes to increase the number of raids conducted in Iraq and Syria which could mean more “boots on the ground” in the region, whether or not they will be US boots is still undetermined.
Carter also took the time to state the US is not cooperating with Russia in the region despite a signed memorandum.
“To be clear, we are not cooperating with Russia, and we are not letting Russia impact the pace or scope of our campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria,” Carter said.
Carter stated the memorandum was to mainly help prevent incidents over Syrian airspace and US plans to continue to arm moderate Syrian rebel groups, which have the targets of Russian airstrikes, according to Carter.
As of September 15, 2015, the total cost of Operation Inherent Resolve is $4 billion and the average daily cost is $10 million. The U.S. has conducted 5,948 of the 7,603 airstrikes conducted in Syria and Iraq.