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Syrian Opposition In The Dark Over US Airstrikes
The head of the Free Syrian Army has told Sky News there has been no co-operation between his fighters and the US-led coalition launching airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) targets.
FSA chief of staff General Abdul-ilah Al Bashir said the first he heard of military intervention was from his own fighters on the ground and international media reports.
“They didn’t let us know and didn’t co-ordinate with us, even until now. As an armed force we haven’t been briefed,” he said.
He also warned airstrikes alone would not defeat militants from IS, also known as ISIS, and urged the US to increase training and arming of FSA fighters.
He explained: “As revolutionaries we have fighters who are ready and well-trained, but what we need are weapons to defeat terrorism.
“ISIS won’t be defeated unless there’s co-ordination between the Free Syrian Army and coalition forces because there’s no way airstrikes can defeat fighters on the ground.”
Despite US President Barack Obama reiterating his willingness to train and arm “moderate” opposition groups in Syria, General Al Bashir said his fighters still need more support from the international community and added he has not got any indication of arms or training on their way.
The first week of military operations in Syria has seen hundreds of missiles fired by coalition jets and dozens of locations targeted, but General Al Bashir said so far airstrikes have failed to have a significant impact on IS.
He said: “In terms of the strikes against ISIS, these were concentrated on oil refineries and ISIS headquarters. A very limited number of fighters were killed as a result.”
The general also questioned the US strategy in Syria, saying FSA-controlled towns were also hit.
“That led to demonstrations and anger among the Syrian people because they weren’t hitting the regime which is the cause of terrorism,” he said.
His main message to the West is that IS launched a ground war in Iraq and Syria and nothing short of a ground war will ultimately destroy the group.
For General Al Bashir, the simple answer is to arm the FSA. But it is a fractured organisation and there is no simple solution to defeating IS.
Meanwhile, a new propaganda video has been released which shows the British hostage John Cantlie.
Speaking to the camera and seemingly under duress, Mr Cantlie describes himself as a “long-term prisoner of the Islamic State”.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, he speaks for more than five minutes about the US strategy to fight IS.
sky news reports