US divided over Russia’s military role in Syria: Report

April 22, 2016 3:30 pm

Some officials cast doubt on ’s peace efforts in . (file photo of the Pentagon building in Washington)

A new report shows growing division within the US administration over Russia’s military role in Syria.
The Reuters report on Friday quoted several unnamed US official as saying that Washington had doubts about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘genuine’ support for a UN-sponsored peace initiative in Syria.
It said despite Moscow’s recent withdrawal of some warplanes from Syria, Russia has actually boosted its forces on the ground there with advanced helicopter gunships and airstrikes against what the Americans described as moderate opposition groups. Such militant groups have long enjoyed the backing of the and its regional allies.
The officials warned that a US failure to react would be seen by Moscow as a fresh sign of American timidity.
This is while the Pentagon in March acknowledged Russia’s “constructive role” in the Syrian peace process which might ultimately lead to a “resolution” of the years-long conflict.
“It’s being clear that they have focused more of their military attention on ISIL. We think that is a good thing. We encourage that from the start,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said on March 29.
“They’re playing a constructive role with regard to the cessation of hostilities,” he added.
Now other officials reportedly believe US inaction could encourage Russia to escalate challenges to America and its allies.
A ceasefire agreement in Syria, brokered by Russia and , entered into force on February 27. The Syrian government accepted the terms of the truce on condition that military efforts against Daesh and the al-Nusra Front terrorists, who are excluded from the ceasefire, continue.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the crisis in the Arab country has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people and displaced nearly half of its pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.
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