Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday voiced his concern’s over Russia’s “contradictory position” in Syria, saying the Kremlin’s decision to conduct airstrikes at the request of Bashar Assad is “tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Mr. Carter stopped short of confirming Russian warplanes had targeted anti-Assad forces in its strike on the western Syrian city of Homs, but admitted that the bombed city is not known to be an operating ground for Islamic State militants.
“It does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach,” Mr. Carter said.
He argued that by supporting Mr. Assad, Russia is seemingly taking on all other forces in the region that are fighting against the Assad regime, an approach the U.S. does not support and one that Mr. Carter said is “doomed to fail.”
He said the U.S. position is clear that a lasting defeat of the Islamic State and other extremist groups in Syria can only be achieved “parallel” to a political restructuring in the country.
Mr. Carter also condemned Russia’s brash approach to inform the U.S. of its plans just one hour before the airstrikes, telling military officials in Baghdad to direct U.S. warplanes out of the region.
“This is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military,” Mr. Carter said, stressing the need for increased communication between both militaries.
He said the U.S. will continue to operate its own missions against the Islamic State in Syria unimpeded.