Of­fi­cials: US, Rus­sian mil­i­tary talks qui­etly prov­ing use­ful

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

US-Rus­sian talks on their sep­a­rate fights against the Is­lamic State group are im­prov­ing and be­com­ing more fre­quent, Amer­i­can of­fi­cials said, with each side trad­ing in­for­ma­tion in real time and even out­lin­ing some of their strate­gic ob­jec­tives in the months ahead. The progress dis­pels the no­tion that ties be­tween the for­mer Cold War foes are “frozen.”

In the dis­cus­sions, Rus­sia has made clear its coun­tert­er­ror­ism pri­or­ity in Syria is re­tak­ing the an­cient city of Palmyra, of­fi­cials said. The US is de­ter­mined to pres­sure IS’ head­quar­ters in Raqqa. The closer con­tacts have de­vel­oped de­spite the for­mer Cold War foes’ bit­ter ac­cu­sa­tions against one an­other over the dev­as­ta­tion in Aleppo and Moscow’s claim that re­la­tions are now “frozen on all prac­ti­cal lev­els.”

The con­fi­den­tial mil­i­tary dis­cus­sions aren’t fo­cus­ing on the two coun­tries’ op­pos­ing po­si­tions in Syria’s civil war, where Rus­sia is fight­ing along­side the gov­ern­ment and the United States has backed rebel groups, of­fi­cials said. But US of­fi­cials with knowl­edge of the on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions are cred­it­ing both sides with putting aside much of the pub­lic an­i­mos­ity, which has in­cluded Wash­ing­ton’s ac­cu­sa­tions of Rus­sian war crimes in Aleppo and Moscow’s charges of Amer­i­can sup­port for ter­ror­ist groups such as Al-Qaeda.

Much of the talk has con­cerned the two na­tions’ im­me­di­ate op­er­a­tions. Since Dec 15, the US-led coali­tion has con­ducted airstrikes on about two dozen lo­ca­tions around Palmyra, de­stroy­ing air de­fense weapons, tanks, air­craft shel­ters, stor­age bunkers and other ve­hi­cles and equip­ment. At the same time, US and Rus­sian of­fi­cials hav­ing been en­sur­ing that the two mil­i­taries’ don’t cross paths in the airspace above the city that IS mil­i­tants seized for the sec­ond time ear­lier this month, and that Amer­i­can strikes don’t mis­tak­enly hit Rus­sian or Syr­ian forces.

But the talks have gone be­yond the gran­u­lar and even touched on broader US and Rus­sian plans, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral US of­fi­cials, who weren’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on the con­fi­den­tial dis­cus­sions and de­manded anonymity. The Rus­sians have spelled out that af­ter they re­take Palmyra, they want to move on IS mil­i­tants con­gre­gated in Deir el-Zour, a city closer to the Iraqi bor­der. Suc­ceed­ing in Deir el-Zour, ac­cord­ing to one US of­fi­cial, could take Rus­sia sev­eral months. —AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.