The Russian campaign in Syria continues, as air strikes hit 60 ISIS targets within the last 24 hours. As the Russian attacks intensified, the U.S. shifted its policy by ceasing the failed program to aid moderate Syrians and instead began aiding Kurds and other rebel groups.
Russia’s Defense Ministry claims an average of 10 targets daily, with the recent increase in attacks aimed at preventing regrouping attempts by Syrian militants. Among the targets was a headquarters of the Liwa al-Haqq group in Raqqa, which is not associated with ISIS.
The U.S. was forced to abandon its aid to Syrian rebels, after spending over $400 million to train 125 fighters. All 125 were either defeated or surrendered their arms to Al Nusra Front.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook commented on the shift in strategy in the region, stating [the Pentagon], “will provide equipment packages and weapons to a select group of vetted leaders and their units so that over time they can make a concerted push into territory still controlled by ISIL.”
The U.S. decision to support Kurdish militias may be more fruitful, as these groups have already demonstrated their abilities in fights along the Turkish border with Syria. The aid will be going to the Popular Protection Units (YPG), who were able to defeat Syrian militants in Tal Abyad this summer in addition to cutting critical supply lines to ISIS.
The decision to aid the YPG could be politically unpopular with Turkey, who associates the group with the now disbanded terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). According to White House officials, the new plan has been discussed with Turkey.
With reports of U.S.-trained rebels abandoning their weapons in the face of advancing ISIS militants being all too common, the new U.S. strategy will be providing more basic types of equipment in order to moderate the blowback from such events.