During a speech Sunday at the Citadel in South Carolina Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker said ISIS would not be defeated in Syria until the government of Bashar al-Assad is brought down.
Walker said so long as Syrian President Bashar Assad “is still in power and Iran, his patron, has a base of operations in Damascus,” ISIS will not be defeated.
“But let me be clear: Defeating ISIS and rolling back Iran will require a greater investment of U.S. resources,” Walker said. “Therefore, we must do more to recruit and support fighters in Syria who oppose both ISIS and Assad.”
Earlier this month, the Obama administration authorized the use of airstrikes to counter ISIS in Syria, but Obama’s policy on Syria has prompted criticism by Republicans and Democrats alike, many whom want a more robust response to the terrorist group.
U.S. airstrikes, however, will soon face competition from Russia.
Western diplomats say a Russian expeditionary force has arrived in Syria and will operate, according to the Israeli website YNet, as a Russian forward operating base.
“In the coming weeks thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisors, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and the pilots who will operate the aircraft,” writes Alex Fishman.
“The current makeup of the expeditionary force is still unknown, but there is no doubt that Russian pilots flying combat missions in Syrian skies will definitely change the existing dynamics in the Middle East.”
The presence of the Russian military in the skies over Syria will increase the possibility of encounters with the United States, especially if the US adopts a more aggressive stance against the Syrian government.
Earlier this month the United States began launching manned airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.