US concerned by Russian jets in Syria: Kerry
Iran Press TV
Sun Sep 20, 2015 4:22PM
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Russia's movement of tactical aircraft to Syria could pose a threat to American and allied military forces.
US officials said Russia moved fighter jets to a base near Latakia on Friday, hours after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in the first high-level military contacts since April 2014.
The two defense officials discussed mechanisms in order to avoid accidental encounters between their forces in Syria.
One US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Friday that there were four Russian jets at the Syrian airfield.
Russia has also stationed T-90 tanks there, and has increased the number of its military flights to the same airfield.
The deployment has raised concerns in Washington that Russia seeks to establish a military outpost in Syria to boost the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
"Clearly, the presence of aircraft with air-to-air combat capacity … and surface-to-air missiles raise serious questions," Kerry said in London on Saturday.
The top diplomat said the resumption of military-to-military talks was designed to make sure there are no incidents between Russian and American forces.
"We are engaged in further conversation about answering those questions and about de-conflicting the Russian activities from ours," Kerry said.
Moscow says its military moves in Syria are meant to fight the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group that has seized large areas of the country.
Russia's commitment to the Syrian government, however, runs counter to current US policy, which calls for the ouster of President Assad.
In addition, the United States is considering a major overhaul of its efforts to train militants in Syria purportedly to fight Daesh, looking for alternatives to prevent the program from totally collapsing.
Citing US defense officials, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Pentagon proposed a plan to supplant the $500 million "train-and-equip" program with a more modest effort.
The US Central Command confirmed Friday that only 9 US-trained militants were active in Syria and the rest have either deserted the program or fled the country.
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