The United States and Russia are slated to hold another round of talks on deconfliction methods today. The talks come after it was revealed that US and Russian warplanes came within a short distance of each other over Syria this weekend. Russia’s air campaign, such as it is, has thus far included a number of highly visible incidents that exemplify the situation in the air over Syria. It is encouraging to see that the US and Russia are making an effort to minimize the dangers to their aircrews and avoid an incident that might potentially involve shooting. Whether the effort results in safer skies remains to be seen, however.
The Russian air campaign has strengthened Bashar al-Assad and his forces. Syrian government forces, along with Iranian and Hezbollah troops are massing in preparation for an offensive to regain control of Aleppo. Right now, sections of the city are held by government and rebel forces while ISIS has hold on some of the rural areas outside of the city. The coming offensive is hardly a secret. Preparations are underway on the ground and have been relatively visible. According to sources, the attack will begin soon and expand a government-led ground offensive against rebel forces in the Hama province further west.
With the Syrians expanding operations on the ground under the protection of Russian air cover and support, the United States is feeling pressure to build and engage in an effective Syrian policy. So far, that has not happened. US involvement in Syria continues to be confined to airstrikes against ISIS and airdrops of ammunition and supplies for moderate rebel groups. The decision to scrap its training program for rebels was the right move to make since the training program was not effective. Something more is going to be needed.
As time goes on, the US goal of an al-Assad free Syria is becoming less and less likely. Russian airstrikes are increasingly targeting US supported rebel groups. The United States needs to find a way to bolster the power of these groups in order for them to survive until perhaps a new US strategy evolves. Along with ammunition, additional anti-aircraft weapons should be supplied. Namely, the latest model of the Stinger man portable surface to air missile.
*Short update today. I apologize for that. Another will be posted tomorrow.*