US Shift in Campaign Against IS

US Shift in Campaign Against ISUS Shift in Campaign Against IS

The US has indicated a shift in its campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including the use of direct ground raids.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said there would also be more airstrikes against “high-value targets”.

Observers say his comments reflect acknowledgment of the lack of progress in defeating the militant group, BBC reported.

Such a shift provoked reactions in Russia, as the head of Russia’s parliamentary committee on foreign affairs told RT that the consequences of potential US ground operations in Syria would be unpredictable. He also said claims that Russian airstrikes have targeted civilians are part of ongoing information war.

Kosachev’s comments come after the Russian Ministry of Defense summoned the military attaches of NATO countries and Saudi Arabia, asking them to clarify their allegations that Russian airstrikes in Syria had hit civilian targets.

Kosachev called on all nations to join the Russian-led coalition against ISIS in Syria,  that Russia is conducting “within the framework of international law”.

“We have no intention of joining any other coalition for the simple reason that they are outside the framework of the international law,” he said.

 US Changes in Plans

Separately, the US says Iran is being invited for the first time to international talks over Syria’s war. “An invitation to Iran to participate, I think Iranian leaders can take to mean that it’s a genuine multilateral invitation,” state department spokesman, John Kirby, said.

US officials would not say which power would pass the invitation to Tehran and did not know if Iran would accept, but they said it would be welcome to attend.

Carter’s comments, made to the Senate Armed Services Committee, come a week after US-Iraqi forces rescued dozens of hostages held by IS in Iraq.

“We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground,” Carter said, using an alternative acronym for IS.

“We expect to intensify our air campaign, including with additional US and coalition aircraft, to target ISIL with a higher and heavier rate of strikes. This will include more strikes against ISIL high-value targets as our intelligence improves.”

 The Coalition

A US-led coalition began airstrikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria last year. US President Barack Obama said the objective was to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS.

Although Obama has not committed ground forces to Iraq, the US has about 3,500 troops in the country who have been helping to train Iraqi forces and also have a limited combat role.

These troops have had a “train and advice” role to help Iraqi forces battling the group but were recently drawn into fighting in northern Iraq.

Last week, a US soldier died during a raid in which commandos and Kurdish Peshmerga stormed an IS-run jail in northern Iraq and freed 70 captives.

Russia started its own airstrikes in Syria at the end of last month, saying it wants to help President Bashar al-Assad defeat IS and other extremists.

But Washington has strongly criticized the Russian campaign, arguing that it has been focused on rebel opposition fighters and that it will only fuel more extremism.

Carter said the fight against IS would now concentrate mostly on Raqqa, the militants’ declared capital in Syria, and Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq.

He did not divulge the circumstances under which the US might carry out operations on the ground on its own.

“But once we locate them, no target is beyond our reach,” he said.