Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime celebrate..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The US is not vetting, training and equipping Syrian rebels to combat and defeat forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, a senior Obama administration official said.
The Free Syrian Army is being prepared to take on Islamic State forces on the ground exclusively, Gen. John Allen, the US special representative to the coalition against the terrorist group, said this week, in an interview conducted and translated by the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat.
The FSA was founded to fight Assad, and the US gave it non-lethal equipment more than a year ago.
But since that time, before the rise of Islamic State, US President Barack Obama said there is no military solution to the Syrian civil war, now more than three years old.
Ultimately, though, strengthening the FSA militarily might facilitate a political compromise, the president said.
Allen reflected that strategy when discussing Washington’s vision for the FSA’s new, multipurpose, role.
“What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize,” Allen told Asharq al-Awsat
“There is not going to be a military solution here.”
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki suggested a translation error may have distorted Allen’s description of the policy.
The US expects that, after its training, the FSA will continue fighting Assad forces as well as Islamic State, Psaki said.
“They’ve been fighting a two-pronged war,” Psaki told reporters. “In order for them to get back to the [negotiating] table, it’s clear that they need a stronger political standing, and a stronger military standing will help them get there. “ Until that time – should it ever come to pass – the US will continue its broad air campaign against Islamic State, Allen said, denying it haven anywhere.
That campaign now costs the US up to $8.3 million a day, the Pentagon said on Monday, totaling $580m. between August 8 and October 16.
Just a week ago, the Pentagon said that the average daily cost was roughly $7.6m.
The increase reflects an intensification of US-led air strikes.
Nearly a dozen strikes targeted Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq on Sunday and Monday alone, the US Central Command said on Monday morning.
US forces conducted four air strikes in Syria near Kobani, the Syrian town near the border with Turkey hosting thousands of refugees and a large Kurdish population, that Islamic State has held under siege for 40 days.
Other strikes hit areas in Iraq near Mosul Dam, Fallujah, Bayji and Zumar.
Reuters contributed to this report.