War on IS needs ‘boots on the ground’: US Air Force

At least 22 dead in at­tack on Syria regime bas­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

DUBAI: The air cam­paign against the Is­lamic State group has made progress in de­grad­ing the ji­hadist or­ga­ni­za­tion but will not be enough with­out lo­cal boots on the ground, the US air force sec­re­tary said yes­ter­day. The com­ments from Deb­o­rah Lee James come just days af­ter Pen­tagon chief Ash­ton Carter raised the pos­si­bil­ity of de­ploy­ing ad­di­tional US Spe­cial Forces per­son­nel to Syria if more part­ners can be found among lo­cal forces on the ground.

“Air power is ex­tremely im­por­tant. It can do a lot but it can’t do ev­ery­thing,” James said. “Ul­ti­mately it can­not oc­cupy ter­ri­tory and very im­por­tantly it can­not gov­ern ter­ri­tory,” she told re­porters at the Dubai Air­show. “This is where we need to have boots on the ground. We do need to have ground forces in this cam­paign.” James cited the “Iraqi army, the Free Syr­i­ans and the Kurds” as forces to sup­port in the fight against IS.

A US-led coali­tion has been car­ry­ing out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria for more than a year in a cam­paign that has seen the ji­hadists lose some ter­ri­tory but also make new gains. The White House an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 30 that US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had au­tho­rized the first sus­tained de­ploy­ment of “fewer than 50” spe­cial force per­son­nel to Syria, re­vers­ing a long­stand­ing re­fusal to put US boots on the ground.

And in an in­ter­view on Sun­day, the Pen­tagon chief said that more US troops could“ab­so­lutely”be de­ployed to Syria if Wash­ing­ton iden­ti­fies more “ca­pa­ble lo­cal forces” as part­ners in the fight against IS. While US troops are be­lieved to have car­ried out covert mis­sions in Syria be­fore, they had not pre­vi­ously been de­ployed there on a con­tin­u­ous ba­sis.

22 dead in at­tack

In another de­vel­op­ment, at least 22 peo­ple were killed in mor­tar fire yes­ter­day on Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, in one of the blood­i­est shellings there since the coun­try’s war be­gan, state me­dia re­ported. The toll rose to “22 peo­ple killed and 62 wounded” in the at­tack on east­ern neigh­bor­hoods of the regime bas­tion, state tele­vi­sion said. Ear­lier, state news agency SANA had said 12 peo­ple died and 57 were hurt when two mor­tar rounds struck res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods.

Latakia lies in the heart­land of the mi­nor­ity Alaw­ite sect to which Syria’s rul­ing clan be­longs and has been largely spared at­tacks dur­ing four and a half years of civil war. A rare car bomb­ing in Septem­ber killed 10 peo­ple and wounded dozens in Ha­mam Square in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal. Rebels and ji­hadists, in­clud­ing Al-Qaeda’s Syria af­fil­i­ate, have long tar­geted the re­gion, in part for its sym­bolic value as a regime strong­hold. Ac­cord­ing to a Syr­ian se­cu­rity source yes­ter­day’s at­tack took place near Latakia’s Tishreen University, “where many stu­dents were gath­ered”. Abir Sel­man, a 24-year old lit­er­a­ture stu­dent at the university, said she was wait­ing for the bus when the mor­tars struck. “I saw blood ev­ery­where and peo­ple run­ning in every di­rec­tion,” she said. “I passed by a corpse that had noth­ing left ex­cept for its legs... We wait at this bus stop every day,”Sel­man added.

Syr­ian state tele­vi­sion broad­cast video footage of blood-stained streets lit­tered with bro­ken class and mangled cars. Mean­while, one per­son was killed and five wounded in a mor­tar at­tack on res­i­den­tial ar­eas of Damascus, state tele­vi­sion said. Ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights at least 10 mor­tar rounds struck var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods of the cap­i­tal. The Bri­tain-based Ob­ser­va­tory said another four peo­ple, in­clud­ing a child, were killed in gov­ern­ment rocket fire on the flash­point town of Douma, east of Damascus. The toll was likely to rise as some of those wounded were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, the mon­i­tor­ing group said. Douma lies in the op­po­si­tion bas­tion of East­ern Ghouta, which is reg­u­larly bom­barded by regime forces. Sus­pected Rus­sian strikes on the town last week killed at least 23 civil­ians. — Agen­cies

DOUMA: A Syr­ian man and his son drive in ve­hi­cle bat­tered by years on con­flict in the rebel-held area of Douma, east of the cap­i­tal Damascus yes­ter­day. — AFP

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