US troops are intensifying pressure on the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq by supporting local forces with an expanded air campaign and occasional direct ground support, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.
Carter said the campaign against IS militants was evolving as the US military sought to reinforce ground efforts. He said US forces aimed to intensify pressure on IS group strongholds in Raqqa in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq.
"We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee, using an acronym for the militant group that holds large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Testifying alongside Carter before the Committee in Washington DC, Marine Corp Gen. Joseph Dunford, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would consider recommending putting US forces with Iraqi troops to fight the IS group if it improved the chances of defeating the militants.
He said such a move could ensure logistics effectiveness and boost intelligence awareness.
“If it had an operational or strategic impact and we could reinforce success, that would be the basic framework within which I’d make a recommendation for additional forces to be co-located with Iraqi units,” Dunford said.
Keeping up the pressure on Raqqa
Carter stated that he expects the coalition air campaign, of which France is a member, to intensify. Carter said this will involve more operations and aircraft.
His testimony came as Russia is conducting its own airstrikes in Syria, saying it aims to help the Syrian government defeat the Islamic State militants and other terrorists.
While both the US and Russia oppose the Islamic State group, Russia is supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the US wants deposed. Some Republican lawmakers complained that the Obama administration is not doing enough against Assad.
Carter said to keep up the pressure on Raqqa, the US will support moderate Syrian forces, who have made territorial gains against the IS group near that city. "Some of them are within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of Raqqa today," he said.
He said the US also hopes to better equip Arab forces battling the Islamic State group and increase support to Jordan, a neighbour of Iraq and Syria which is flying missions as part of the anti-IS group coalition.
Carter said he was disappointed that the US effort to form new moderate Syrian rebel forces to fight IS group militants had failed. He said the new approach is to work with vetted leaders of groups that are already fighting the militants and also give them equipment and training and help support them with US air power.
"If done in concert as we intend, all these actions on the ground and from the air should help shrink IS territory into a smaller and smaller area and create new opportunities for targeting IS - ultimately denying this evil movement any safe haven in its supposed heartland," Carter stated.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)
Date created : 2015-10-27