KABUL — U.S. surveillance flights over Syria have started with President Obama’s go-ahead, a step that will provide potential targets if airstrikes against Islamic State militants are approved.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that an unnamed U.S. official said the flights had begun. USA TODAY reported Monday that the flights will provide information on potential targets for strikes in Syria if Obama approves.

The White House and Pentagon would not discuss details of intelligence operations in Syria but made clear the United States is not cooperating with the country’s regime.

“As a matter of U.S. policy, we have not recognized” President Bashar Assad as the leader in Syria, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to Charlotte to give a speech to a veterans group. “There are no plans to change that policy, and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime.”

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