According to the Military Times, the Syrian Mission may now be in a state of ‘creeping’ past its original borders after the US-Russian agreement to work together may add the Jabhat al-Nusra group to the target list.
“Going into this, the U.S. wants overwhelming attention paid to ISIS targets. The Russians would much rather see the targeting of al Nusra. It’s going to be a negotiation on the ground between colonels and one stars that are putting together targeting lists.” James Stavridis, retired Navy admiral and former head of U.S. European Command
The al-Nusra group is a threat to the Assad government in Syria. But the U.S.- backed rebels have worked with them against ISIS. Al-Nusra is an off shoot of al-Qaeda. Targeting with this agreement is going to be dicey.
“What if there’s a target and the Russians say ‘Our information says this is a terrorist’ and the U.S. says no, it’s not? They say ‘Show us your information’ and the U.S. says ‘No, we’re not going to compromise our sources.’ It’s going to get messy. What happens if someone vetoes a target and the other side goes ahead and strikes it anyway?” Jacqueline Lopour, former CIA analyst
The agreement to work with Russia in this conflict still has details to work out, and the military plans to meet Monday to hash out some of them. Whether the cooperation is narrowed only to sharing of intelligence, deconflicting the airstrikes, or something more active remains to be worked out. But asking the Military to change targets could prove problematical.
They have plans for a “joint integration center” for both Russia and the United States to coordinate their airstrikes.
A 7 day ceasefire worked out to stop airstrikes and fighting near Aleppo for deliveries of humanitarian aid will be done on Tuesday.
It’s good that the US is at least talking with Russia in this instance. But targeting another group when there are US-backed forces linked to them among those that our leadership feels are “moderates” is a recipe for disaster. The brokered cooperation by Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry may prove to be messy in the long run.