Russia’s airstrike campaign against ISIL targets in Syria caught the United States off-guard, and the Obama administration cannot decide on how to react to Moscow’s actions, The Washington Post wrote.

US intelligence agencies that train and equip “moderate” rebels in secret cantonments in the Middle East expressed displeasure with Washington’s inaction after Russian Air Forces started an anti-terrorist operation in Syria, the paper wrote, citing high-ranking US officials.
A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the theatre at the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Islamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra on May 14, 2015
According to the officials, who commented on the situation under condition of anonymity, US authorities were not completely unaware of Russia’s intent to enhance its military presence in Syria. The strikes, conducted by the Russian Air Force, followed a series of moves by Moscow that signaled a coming offensive. America’s allies had informed the US since mid-August that Russia allegedly requested air passage not only for freight carriers but for fighter aircrafts and bombers as well, though Syrian pilots had never been taught how to operate them.

“It was clear that something pretty big was up,” the official said.

Russia uses helicopters in the operation against the IS in Syria
However, even though authorities knew Russia was sending military experts to Syria, the strikes still caught the US flat-footed, and Russia’s operation damaged the “US’s fragile strategy” to build a force that would be able to stand up against the Islamic State, the paper notes.

Before Moscow began its military operation, some Obama administration officials called for a wait-and-see approach to “determine whether Russia would actually attack the Islamic State.” And now White House is debating on how to react to the current situation, the paper says.

“The struggle to find a way to respond has become a source of tension within the administration,” the Post wrote. “CIA Director John Brennan has voiced frustration with US inaction as fighters trained and armed by the agency at secret camps in Jordan over the past two years face a Russian assault”.

Presently, US intelligence agencies are interested in the scale and duration of the Russian campaign, also its influence on CIA’s training and equipment of “moderate rebel groups caught between Assad’s army and extremist elements including the Islamic State”, the Post concludes.

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