In comments that are not likely to sit well with either the Syrian government nor their allies, US coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon today insisted that the US “absolutely have no problem” with Syria, or any of its allies, advancing into the remaining ISIS strongholds to try to defeat them.
Col. Dillon insisted that a concerted effort to move against ISIS “is not a bad sign,” though this claim likely sounds particularly galling after the last several weeks, in which the US has repeatedly launched airstrikes against pro-Syrian forces that have gotten even close to ISIS-held territory in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor Provinces.
The US has previously presented attacks on these forces as “self-defense,” because they argued the pro-government forces are too close to a US-backed rebel base at al-Tanf, and even shot down a Syrian plane in “collective self-defense” when it bombed an ISIS-held town that was being advanced on by Kurdish forces.
The US attacks were particularly controversial because the US war in Syria is supposed to exclusively be about fighting ISIS, and recent attacks have had nothing to do with that mission, instead targeting Shi’ite militia forces out in the middle of the desert to keep them getting too close to an area that is still overwhelmingly ISIS-held. Pentagon officials have struggled with whether this amounts to a shift in focus of the war or not, and reports have suggested those struggles are even more intense behind the scenes. Either way, “welcoming” Syria to try to take back parts of Syria held by ISIS is insincere so long as US forces are going to attack them for doing so.