Sunday, 17 December 2017 10:09 GMT

War on DAESH needs boots on ground: US air force secretary

(MENAFN - Arab Times) The air campaign against the Islamic State group has made progress in degrading the jihadist organisation but will not be enough without local boots on the ground, the US air force secretary said on Tuesday. The comments from Deborah Lee James come just days after Pentagon chief Ashton Carter raised the possibility of deploying additional US special forces personnel to Syria if more partners can be found among local forces on the ground. "Air power is extremely important. It can do a lot but it can't do everything," James said. "Ultimately it cannot occupy territory and very importantly it cannot govern territory," she told reporters at the Dubai Airshow. "This is where we need to have boots on the ground. We do need to have ground forces in this campaign." James cited the "Iraqi army, the Free Syrians and the Kurds" as forces to support in the fight against IS. A US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria for more than a year in a campaign that has seen the jihadists lose some territory but also make new gains.

The White House announced on Oct 30 that US President Barack Obama had authorised the first sustained deployment of "fewer than 50" special force personnel to Syria, reversing a longstanding refusal to put US boots on the ground. And in an interview on Sunday, the Pentagon chief said that more US troops could "absolutely" be deployed to Syria if Washington identifies more "capable local forces" as partners in the fight against IS. While US troops are believed to have carried out covert missions in Syria before, they had not previously been deployed there on a continuous basis. Meanwhile, the French army has stepped up its bombing campaign against the Islamic State group's oil infrastructure with two new strikes in eastern Syria, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday. "We struck again twice last night in the Deir Ezzor region, firstly on an oil distribution station and secondly on a gas separation plant," Le Drian told journalists on the sidelines of a forum on African peace and security in Dakar, Senegal. A US-led coalition conducted 15 strikes against the Islamic State in Syria on Monday, hitting the militant group with bomber, fighter, attack and drone aircraft, the US military said on Tuesday. Forces concentrated on Islamic State's oil supply near Dayr Az Zawr, where six strikes hit gas and oil separation plants and pump stations. Near Al Hawl and Al Hasakah, strikes destroyed a car bomb, 22 fighting positions, a mortar position, a structure and an anti-air artillery piece, according to the statement.

The coalition also attacked Islamic State targets in Iraq with 16 strikes conducted by bomber, fighter and attack aircraft. The bombardments were focused on Sinjar, where seven strikes destroyed 30 Islamic State fighting positions, light machine guns and a command and control post, the statements said. In other news, at least 23 people were killed and 40 wounded in two explosions in the Syrian city of Latakia on Tuesday, a monitoring group said, in one of the bloodiest attacks on President Bashar al- Assad's coastal stronghold. The blasts hit two separate areas of the city, one from rocket fire and the other either from a rocket or a planted explosive device, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. With many of the wounded in serious condition, the death toll was expected to rise, said the Observatory, which monitors the war using sources on the ground.

War on DAESH needs boots on ground: US air force secretary

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