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US Air Force official says Russia did not deliver strikes at US-backed Syrian opposition

October 02, 2015, 8:15 UTC+3
A US general said the Russian Aerospace Force did not use precision weapons while delivering first airstrikes at targets in Syria
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© Hadi Al-Abdallah via AP

WASHINGTON, October 2. /TASS/. Russia’s Aerospace Force did not deliver airstrikes at any groupings of the Syrian opposition supported by the US, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force in charge of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, General Robert Otto said on Thursday as he met with a small group or reporters, including TASS, at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

Since no such bombings took place, a question on what steps the US should take in case such situations occur is hypothetical, he indicated.

"I think that is still being worked through," he said. "It hasn't happened, and so it's a what if at this point. And I think that commanders on the ground are working through that issue right now."

When a reporter asked him if Washington might be prepared to establish full-scale operational antiterrorist cooperation with Moscow if an appropriate proposal came from the Russian side, Gen Otto said he personally could not see a situation where he would share intelligence data with the Russian side.

No use of precision weapons by Russia Aerospace Force in Syria

The general said the Russian Aerospace Force did not use precision weapons while delivering first airstrikes at targets in Syria.

"You all saw the big reports on what the Russians were dropping yesterday," Gen Otto said. "Those aren't precision weapons. Those are dumb guided bombs dropped by the pilot."

When a reporter asked him where he had gotten this information, he said: "Through our analysis. We determine it based on what we see being brought in. We can do with imagery, we can tell what's hanging off of the airplane."

"To me it was representative of what you'd expect from dumb bombs being dropped from airplanes at medium altitude, which was not that impressive," Gen Otto said.

He confirmed that the US forces would certainly like to avoid possible conflicts with the Russian Armed Forces in Syria.

"We certainly would like to avoid it," Gen Otto said. "And the best way to avoid it is being in cosultation over deconfliction."

He claimed that, on the whole, statements by the Russian leadership and practical actions undertaken by the Armed Forces in Syria revealed a controversy.

"[…] there is incongruence between what President Putin is saying and what his forces are doing", Gen Otto said. "And so what are their intentions. That's what we would like to know."

"Trust but verify"

Asked if Washington is ready to organize with Moscow full-fledged operational antiterrorism military cooperation on Syria if Russia voices the proposal, he said: "I would not envision a relationship where I would share some of my intelligence with them."

"I'm not saying it couldn't happen, I just don't envision it based on where our interests are and based on what their demonstrated intent, based on where their airstrikes are," Otto said.

"I'd be hard-pressed to think of what intelligence I would want to share with the Russians at this point. They are only one day into their strikes but based on where they are operating," he said.

"I have a low level of trust in the Russians. It's trust but verify. So it's easy then to exchange factual data /on/ where you are going to operate," Otto said.

"Every day at the air operations center the person responsible for air operations - combined force air component commander - produces an air tasking order that becomes - here is what we are going to do today," he said.

"It delineates the take-off times, what the bomb-loads will be on airplanes and where they will fly and refuel - all that kind of stuff. What we would share is specifics in an area that butts up against them. Our air tasking order would be comprehensive, I would not expect us to share that, we would share specific elements from the air tasking order," Otto said.

"It does take a lot of effort to create an air tasking order [ATO] and put forces in play and we talked about targeting aspect of this. And you want to keep up that tempo. So, if you want to avoid this kind of missteps isn't it handy to know ahead of time - ‘OK, we are going to be operating in this area tomorrow’. That would be helpful to know," he said.

"Like yesterday, our forces got, I think, one hour's notice? Two or one hour's notice," Otto said. "That's not deconfliction. That's not something we are going to do."

Moscow surprised at swift Internet reaction to anti-IS operation

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariya Zakharova said Wednesday while answering a question on a report on the internet on people allegedly killed as a result of Russian air strikes in Syria that the scale and speed of information injections into social networks regarding the Russian operation in Syria is surprising.

"We have just started the operation, and social networks already publish photos of alleged victims," Zakharova told journalists. "What can I say? We all know perfectly how such pictures are made. The speed with which it all was prepared is surprising."

She underscored that all data regarding the operation Russia conducts at the request of official Damascus and in line with international law and Russian legislation will be commented by Russian official bodies, in particular, the Defense Ministry.

"That’s why I am calling, including on Western media, to turn to top officials in the Defense Ministry press service to obtain all required information," Zakharova said.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported Wednesday that Russian air strikes in Syria destroyed command centers of Islamic State terrorist organization militants.

"Today aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Forces delivered targeted air strikes on eight facilities of the ISIL [former name of Islamic State] terrorist group on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. Overall, some 20 sorties were made," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

"As a result of air strikes, depots with ammunition, armaments, petroleum, oil and lubricants, accumulations of military hardware were hit. The command control centers of ISIL militant formations in the mountains were completely destroyed," Konashenkov said.

He said all strikes were made after air reconnaissance and update of data obtained from the Syrian army headquarters. Aircraft armaments were not used to hit civil infrastructure facilities or areas near them.

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