US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter criticized Russia’s policy in Syria as “contradictory,” saying its airstrikes in support of the Syrian government were “pouring gasoline on the fire.”
The Pentagon chief said Wednesday that Russian airstrikes, reported earlier in the day, against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists were pointless while Moscow continued to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“To fight [ISIL] without pursuing a political transition only risks a civil war,” he said at a briefing. “That approach is tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire.”
“I think what they’re doing is going to backfire and is counterproductive,” Carter added.
Russia carried out its first airstrikes in Syria following a warning that the US should clear the skies in the Arab country.
Carter said the Russian strikes on the western Syrian city of Homs did not appear to be directed against Daesh positions.
“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,” he said.
Russia’s military operations in Syria have raised concerns in Washington that they will target militant units, trained and armed by the Pentagon and CIA, and bolster the Assad government.
American warplanes have been conducting airstrikes in Syria since September last year. US officials say the strikes are aimed at ISIL forces, but critics assert that the operations are also directed against infrastructure key to the Syrian government.
The US military carried out at least one strike on Wednesday, and did not inform Russian authorities when or where it would take place, officials said.
“The coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria as planned, as we did today,” Carter said at the briefing.
Officials said the US expects to hold military-to-military talks with Russia as soon as Thursday to explore ways to keep their militaries apart, highlighting the risks of pressing ahead with rival air campaigns in Syria.
“You don’t have time to raise it up to a presidential level … when two planes are closing at 20 miles a minute,” a US military official, was quoted as saying by Newsweek.
Russia has been beefing up its military presence in Syria, deploying warplanes, tanks and personnel to an airfield in the western port city of Latakia.
By Press TV