The White House and the Pentagon have publicly blasted the Russians and Syrians for what is viewed as a weak attempt to oust the Islamic State and ISIS from the Syrian borders.
In a scathing statement, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said, “The Syrian regime and Russian Federation’s actions have thus far demonstrated that countering ISIS and other violent extremist groups like Nusra Front and al-Qaeda is not their foremost priority.”
Manning added, “Their collective actions call into question their commitment to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and other extremist groups.”
Manning read from a prepared statement as he said the U.S. was reorganizing its forces in Syria to try to stabilize so-called de-escalation zones in support of the Geneva peace process, which he accused Russia of undermining.
“They also do not appear to have a plan for how to bring a meaningful conclusion to the civil war that addresses the fundamental problem that led to the rise of ISIS nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias,” Manning said.
Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pronounced peace talks sponsored by Russia in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana a failure.
“Astana has not been productive. A lot of effort went into it. Nothing much has come out of it. Now, it is going into Geneva,” Mattis said.
The Geneva process is “starting to gain traction,” and so he said American troops and U.S.-backed Syrian fighters are changing their stance as a result.
Mattis told reporters that the US was changing it’s the composition of its forces to something that supports its diplomats and the Geneva process. Mattis also admitted that US troop strength was far above what had been reported. Instead of the 503 troops officially acknowledged by the Pentagon, Mattis said the number was around 2000.
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