U.S. to Continue Arming Syrian Rebels as Russia Conducts Operations Against Those Same Rebels
WASHINGTON — Leaders within the Department of Defense have continued to condone Russia’s action in the region and stated they will continue to arm rebel groups in Syria while pursuing a “political transition” to end the now four year civil war.
In a statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, the DoD said it will continue to work with coalition partners as part of the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve in addition to arming “vetted leaders” to combat ISIL.
“I remain convinced that a lasting defeat of ISIL in Syria will depend in part on the success of local, motivated, and capable ground forces,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in the statement.
The United States as well as NGOs have claimed that recent Russian airstrikes and other operations in the region have been targeting the rebels armed and supported by the DoD. These rebel groups are anti-Assad while Assad is an ardent ally of Russia. Russian military forces are building airports and currently operate a naval-base on Syrian territory.
While at a NATO meeting in Brussels, Carter spoke briefly about Russia’s involvement in the region stating Russian forces have violated Turkish airspace, shot cruise missiles without warning, flown dangerously close to U.A.V.’s and have also begun ground operations in conjuncture with Assad’s forces.
“This will have consequences for Russia itself,” Carter said adding, “I also expect that in coming days the Russians will begin to suffer casualties in Syria.”
Carter also continued to reiterate the U.S.’s desire to see Russia leave Crimea and Ukraine.
Carter stated last week that the U.S. has provided more than $244 million in equipment and training to Ukraine. Humvees, counter-mortar radar, night vision gear, body armor, medical equipment and training of 900 Ukrainian national guardsmen account for the expenditures.