Photo: Anadolu Agency
Photo: Anadolu Agency

Washington, 28 Safar 1437/10 December (MINA) –   The U.S. claimed it’s able to impose a no-fly zone in northern Syria, but political and military considerations are preventing it from doing so, a top general said Wednesday.

In a fiery exchange with lawmakers, Gen. Paul Selva acknowledged the military ability to create a safe zone, but said, “The question that we need to ask is, do we have the political and policy backdrop with which to do so?”, Anadolu Agency reports as quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA).

Crucial to the Joint Chiefs Vice chairman was a potential confrontation with Russian forces should they opt to challenge the no-fly zone, or a “direct conflict” with the Syrian army.

A visibly perturbed Sen. John McCain, who has long criticized the Obama administration’s strategy, rebutted. “I must say, it’s one of the more embarrassing statements I’ve ever heard from a uniformed military officer, that we are worried about Syria and Russia’s reaction to saving the lives of thousands and thousands of Syrians who are being barrel-bombed and massacred.”

The heated crossfire came during a congressional hearing in which/sought to defend President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

In another terse stand-off with the senior senator, Carter acknowledged that the extremist group has not yet been contained after more than a year of unrelenting airstrikes, but said the U.S.-led coalition is “building momentum against ISIL.”

When asked how long it would take to retake Daesh’s de facto capital in Raqqa, and Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, Carter emphasized that it is up to local forces in Iraq and Syria to take the lead.

Obama has steadfastly resisted calls for another massive U.S. troop buildup in a Middle East country, and has emphasized the importance of developing partner forces in the region to carry out the ground offensive against Daesh.

As Iraqi forces continue their offensive to retake the strategic city of Ramadi, Carter said that the U.S. is standing ready to provide additional close air support and troops to advise the offensive.

“The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers,” if needed and if requested by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told lawmakers.

The U.S. has recently begun training the Iraqi military in new combat engineering techniques, and provided it with new munitions, Carter said, including shoulder-fired missiles to thwart truck bombs, a Daesh favorite for breaking enemy lines. (T/P010/R04)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)