Obama Authorizes Airstrikes to Defend Syrian Rebels
President Barack Obama has authorized the use of airstrikes to defend U.S.-trained Syrian rebels if they come under attack from terrorist groups or the Assad regime, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.
The broader U.S. rules of engagement, approved July 31, came after rebels fighting Islamic State (ISIS) were attacked by the Al-Nusra Front, Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, in northern Syria, a U.S. defense official said.
On Sunday, Al-Nusra posted a video purportedly showing its capture of the rebel force it accuses of aiding U.S.-led airstrikes against its fighters.
The United States provided close air support to protect the rebels and quash the attack, he said, according to Bloomberg.
While airstrikes remain limited to Islamic State targets for offensive operations, they can now be used to defend U.S. allies on the ground in Syria, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
The official discounted the risk of an American confrontation with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, should he choose to attack any American-trained forces on the ground.
The U.S.-trained rebels, who number about 60, have pledged to fight only Islamic State, not the Assad government, and Assad must focus on other threats to his regime, the official told Bloomberg.
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