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ottobre 5, 2016

U.S. Sees Russian Drive Against CIA-Backed Rebels in Syria

Filed under: Senza Categoria — mirabilissimo100 @ 2:42 am

 

isis-risultato-usa-e-russoBy

Adam Entous

Adam Entous
The Wall Street Journal

Oct. 5, 2015 7:38 p.m. ET

Russia has targeted Syrian rebel groups backed by the Central Intelligence Agency in a string of airstrikes running for days, leading the U.S. to conclude that it is an intentional effort by Moscow, American officials said.

The assessment, which is shared by commanders on the ground, has deepened U.S. anger at Moscow and sparked a debate within the administration over how the U.S. can come to the aid of its proxy forces without getting sucked deeper into a proxy war that President Barack Obama says he doesn’t want. The White House has so far been noncommittal about coming to the aid of CIA-backed rebels, wary of taking steps that could trigger a broader conflict.

.S. officials said Russia’s targeting of its allies on the ground was a direct challenge to Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. Underlining the distrust, the Pentagon decided against sharing any information with Moscow about the areas where U.S. allies were located because it suspected Russia would use that information to target them more directly or provide the information to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“On day one, you can say it was a one-time mistake,” a senior U.S. official said of Russia’s strike on one of the allied rebel group’s headquarters. “But on day three and day four, there’s no question it’s intentional. They know what they’re hitting.”

U.S. officials say they now believe the Russians have been directly targeting CIA-backed rebel groups that pose the most direct threat to Mr. Assad since the campaign began on Wednesday, both to firm up regime positions and to send a message to Mr. Obama’s administration.

Russian officials said last week that they had launched the air campaign in Syria to fight the extremist group Islamic State and other terrorists—adopting the language that the Syrian regime uses to refer to all its opponents. U.S. intelligence officials said the primary mission of the operation appeared to be shoring up the Assad regime and preventing rebels gaining any additional ground on government-controlled areas, rather than fighting Islamic State.

A spokesman for Russia’s Embassy in Washington said: “Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear on multiple occasions that the airstrikes are targeted at ISIL [Islamic State], Nusra, and other terrorist groups.”

Top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have described the current campaign as limited to airstrikes. But Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, the head of the defense committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said he couldn’t rule out that Russian “volunteers” might surface in Syria, much as they did in Ukraine on the side of separatists, according to state news agency Interfax.

After one group backed by a CIA-led coalition was hit, U.S. officials couldn’t agree on whether Russia was targeting U.S.-trained fighters intentionally or whether it was making no distinction between the many anti-Assad rebel groups. By the second day of strikes, however, U.S. officials said they concluded that Russia was zeroing in on CIA-backed groups across a wide swath of the country’s west.

One of Russia’s first targets was a CIA-backed group known as Tajamu al-Ezzeh or the Ezzeh Gathering in Hama province in central Syria, U.S. and rebel officials said.

The first strike on the group came at 9 a.m. on Sept. 30, catching its fighters off guard. Seventeen more strikes were launched against the group over the first three days of the Russian campaign, injuring 25 of Ezzeh’s fighters. Some of the injured had received CIA training, according to their commander, Maj. Jameel al-Salih. Four strikes on the first day targeted Ezzeh’s headquarters.

American officials and the allied commanders said several other rebel groups covertly backed by the U.S. and its coalition allies have also been targeted by the Russians. They include the First Coastal Division, whose base in northern Latakia province near the Turkish border was struck twice on Oct. 2 starting at 9:45 p.m., according to the group’s commander, Capt. Muhammad Haj Ali.

The Obama administration briefly considered asking the Russians to avoid certain areas inside Syria held by moderate opposition rebels, officials said. But they set aside the idea when it became evident the Russians could use the information to more directly target America’s allies.

There have long been skeptics within the Obama administration and the Congress about the CIA’s arm-and-train program in Syria, reflecting doubts in both branches of government about the ability and the wisdom of trying to build an anti-Assad army from scratch.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-concludes-russia-targeting-cia-backed-rebels-in-syria-1444088319

 

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