(DVIDS) – U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says it appears Russian air strikes in Syria were in areas where there probably are no Islamic State forces.
Russia launched air strikes in Syria on Wednesday in the Kremlin’s biggest Middle East intervention in decades, but Moscow’s assertion that it had hit Islamic State was immediately disputed by the United States and rebels on the ground.
Carter said there is a contradiction in the fact that Russia says it intends to fight the Islamic State, when its actions appear to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He also said he has directed his staff to open lines of communication with Russia’s military as Washington and Moscow explore ways to ensure the safety of rival operations in Syria’s limited airspace.
The air strikes plunged the four-year-old civil war in Syria into a volatile new phase as President Vladimir Putin moved forcefully to assert Russian influence in the unstable region and Moscow and Washington offered conflicting accounts of which targets had been struck, underlining growing tensions between the two former Cold War foes over Russia’s decision to intervene.
Russia warned the United States ahead of the strikes to keep its aircraft out of Syrian airspace, but the United States pressed forward with its campaign of air strikes against Islamic State forces and said it had targeted Islamic State near the Syrian city of Aleppo.