John Davison and Phil Stewart — Reuters Oct 12, 2015
U.S. forces have carried out an air drop of small arms ammunition to Syrian Arab rebels in northern Syria, barely two weeks after Russia raised the stakes by intervening in the war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.
A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday the air drop of supplies to the opposition fighters on Sunday was part of a revamped U.S. strategy announced last week to help rebels in Syria battling Islamic State militants.
Last week, Washington shelved a programme to train and equip “moderate” rebels opposed to Assad who would join the fight against Islamic State.
The only group on the ground to have success against Islamic State while cooperating with the U.S.-led coalition is a Kurdish militia, the YPG, which has carved out an autonomous zone in northern Syria and advanced deep into Islamic State’s stronghold Raqqa province.
On Monday, the YPG announced a new alliance with small groups of Arab fighters, which could help deflect criticism that it fights only on behalf of Kurds. Washington has indicated that it could direct funding and weapons to Arab commanders on the ground who cooperate with the YPG.
Syrian Arab rebels said they had been told by Washington that new weapons were on their way to help them launch a joint offensive with their Kurdish allies on the city of Raqqa, the de facto Islamic State capital.
The Russian intervention in Syria has wrongfooted the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, which has been trying to defeat Islamic State while still calling for Assad’s downfall.