US general approves Syria air strikes

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States is moving closer to conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria with President Barack Obama set to review, and likely to approve, a plan put up to him by his military leaders.

Obama will review the plan on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) during a visit to Tampa, headquarters of US military’s Central Command (Centcom), which is in charge of operations in Iraq and Syria.

“I and Chairman [of the joint chiefs General Martin]Dempsey have reviewed and approved Centcom’s plans for potential strikes in Syria,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

Hagel and Dempsey were on Capitol Hill testifying before a senate committee on Obama administration’s plans for dealing with the Islamic State, which recently beheaded two American journalists.

To questions about sending in ground troops, Dempsey said he will recommend US troops take part as “close combat advisors” if and when required — such as, he offered, if the Iraqi army was planning to retake Mosul city.

US special forces are in Iraq advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces, but remotely, from a far away control and command center. They don’t accompany them to into the combat zones.

New Delhi will be watching this closely as 39 Indian citizens captured by IS when it took the city remain in the custody of the outfit three months since.

Obama announced expanded offensive against IS to include its positions in Syria, where it is headquartered in the city of Raqqa, in a public address from the White House last week.

But the US military has not yet reported any operations in Syria, whereas there have been upwards of 160 airstrikes against the jihadists in Iraq — in an around Mosul, Amirli and Sinjar.

On Monday, US struck an IS position “southwest” of Baghdad in a significant expansion of the operation in Iraq, for the first time since August 8, when the air campaign began.

MCT

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