Recent ISIS territorial gains in southeastern Syria, centering around the ancient city of Palmyra, are likely to lead to an expansion of US airstrikes in the region, with Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend talking up the need to launch strikes against ISIS forces to prevent them moving captured arms caches out of the city.
In a Pentagon briefing today, Townsend played up the amount of equipment ISIS seized in the offensive, saying that the US isn’t exactly sure what ISIS got, but that it includes heavy weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, and at least some armored vehicles, adding that the new arms could threaten US troops in the area.
ISIS took over Palmyra is a surprise offensive over the past week, overrunning a significant oil field in the area and then advancing into the city itself. There was relatively light defense in the area because Syria has deployed such a large amount of forces further north for the Aleppo offensive.
Gen. Townsend expressed hope that either Syria or Russia would quickly retake Palymra to prevent ISIS getting too many weapons out of the city, which itself is a rare statement as the US has historically treated ISIS, Russia, and Syria as relatively equal enemies in Syria, and has tried to avoid calling attention to any moves Syria makes against ISIS.