The U.S. forces bombing Islamic State targets in Syria will not yield to Russian jets, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday. He also confirmed that Russia’s first strikes on Wednesday were not in areas where the Islamic State operates — and that raises the risk of collision between Russian and U.S.-led coalition forces.
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“The coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria as planned, as we did today,” Carter said. “We intend to continue to conduct the air operations as we have been doing. We don’t intend to make any changes in our air operations.”
Carter said he didn’t want to detail what the U.S. military has observed about Russian activities. But he said, “One of the reasons why the Russian position is contradictory is that exact potential for them to strike, as they may well have, in places where in fact ISIL is not present; others are present … it does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach.”
Hours before Carter spoke, Moscow launched its first strikes in Syria — giving U.S. officials an hour’s notice but without deconflicting with U.S. forces as it had promised. Russian warplanes and gunships dropped bombs near the central cities of Homs and Hama, according to reports.