“If you have forces in the area, we request they leave.” Russian General
Russian airstrikes have begun in “temporary support” of the Assad effort against ISIS. Or at least that’s their story. Officials are saying that it appears the targets are rebel forces rather than ISIS. But Coalition forces are still conducting operations in Syria, and have not changed their plans in spite of the warning.
The Guardian wrote,
At the Pentagon, US officials said the strikes did not appear to be targeting areas held by Isis forces, and signalled deep dissatisfaction with Russia, piercing the veneer of cooperation that Barack Obama and Putin sought to establish at the United Nations.
A day after the Pentagon announced that US defence chief Ashton Carter was establishing a communications channel with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu, to “deconflict” any overlapping airstrikes, Russian officials told US diplomats in Baghdad that the Americans should “avoid Syrian airspace” during a Russian operation of uncertain duration. US officials rejected the demand.
Syrian rebels and opposition media outlets alleged that Russian aircraft carried out strikes in the central provinces of Homs and Hama that allegedly killed at least 24 people.
Who’s targeting who?
Putin and Obama met at the United Nations in an effort to de-escalate the tension between the two governments. But the U.S. ignored the request to leave Syrian airspace, and plans to conduct coalition missions regardless of Russian planes in the area.
Homs and Hama do not have ISIS fighters in the area at least at this point, officials stated. So they believe the Russian targets are against the Syrian Free Army and other rebel groups. According to officials the Russians are targeting farther west than coalition forces, so the likelihood of conflict is slim.
Russian lawmakers also approved Putin’s request for troops to be sent to Syria. Putin has stated that backing Assad is much wiser than backing the rebel forces because his army has a much better chance of defeating ISIS. Likely Putin’s forces will target both the rebels and ISIS, as he has no love for the vicious jihadists either.