War on IS needs ‘boots on the ground’: US Air Force
At least 22 dead in attack on Syria regime bastion
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