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American Resistance To Empire

Pakistani Forces ‘Providing Weapons’ To Taliban In Border Regions

Police officials in Paktia province say Pakistani military forces help the Taliban ‘in fight against Afghan security and defense forces’.

 

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A police commander in Paktia province, in Afghanistan’s east, on Tuesday said Pakistani military forces ‘are supplying heavy weapons to Taliban fighters in areas along the Durand Line – the de facto border between Afghanistan and Pakistan – in order to attack Afghan security forces’. 

The militants are stationed in parts of Dand-e-Patan district, said Gen. Abdulwase, commander of 203 Thunder Army Corps in the district.

“How do they (the Taliban) find weapon in the Zero Point (of the Durand Line), how are they equipped, how do they find personnel and where are they supported from? Pakistan is simply deceiving the world. But the world knows that Pakistani government is providing all these facilities to the Taliban,” he said.

He said the security forces will clear the district of Taliban and will cut off the supply lines of the militants, he said.

Wase said that so far over 110 Taliban fighters have been eliminated during the battles with the security forces.

“At least 115 enemy fighters were killed and 70 others wounded. They attacked us twelve times in past few days but we repelled all their attacks,” he added.

According to him, the Pakistan government does not want the supply line to be cut off.

The security forces launched a military operation in Dand-e-Pathan district one month ago, killing more than 150 Taliban militants.

Afghan forces have claimed that they had inflicted heavy toll to the Taliban in the district.

The security forces said Taliban militants attack the Afghan security forces across the Durand Line, an allegation the Taliban termed as baseless.

Freighter Was On Autopilot When It Hit U.S. Destroyer, Destroyer Slowed Down

 

[U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning]

source

 

Freighter Was On Autopilot When It Hit

U.S. Destroyer

USS Fitzgerald did not detect container ship

U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port US Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa

U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port US Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa / Getty Images

BY:

The deadly collision between a U.S. destroyer and a container ship June 17 took place while the freighter was on autopilot, according to Navy officials.

The Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal was under control of a computerized navigation system that was steering and guiding the container vessel, according to officials familiar with preliminary results of an ongoing Navy investigation.

Investigators so far found no evidence the collision was deliberate.

Nevertheless, an accident during computerized navigation raises the possibility the container ship’s computer system could have been hacked and the ship deliberately steered into the USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

A more likely explanation is that collision was the result of an autopilot malfunction, or the autopilot’s warning signals, used to notify the ship’s operators, were missed.

The destroyer was severely damaged when the protruding undersea bow of the cargo ship struck Fitzgerald on the right side. Seven sailors died as a result and the captain and two others were injured. It was the Navy’s worst accident at sea.

The two ships hit about 64 miles off the coast of Japan.

The collision occurred at around 1:30 a.m. local time but was not reported by the freighter’s crew until around 2:25 a.m. Investigators believe the time lag was the result of the crew not realizing they had hit another ship.

Commercial ship autopilot systems normally require someone to input manually the course for the ship travel. The computer program then steers the ship by controlling the steering gear to turn the rudder.

The system also can be synchronized with an electronic chart system to allow the program to follow courses of a voyage plan.

Tracking data broadcast from the Crystal as part of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) shows the ship changed course by 90 degrees to the right and slightly reduced its speed between around 1:32 a.m. and 1:34 a.m. After that time, the data shows the ship turned to the left and resumed a northeastern coarse along its original track line.

Private naval analyst Steffan Watkins said the course data indicates the ship was running on autopilot. “The ACX Crystal  powered out of the deviation it performed at 1:30, which was likely the impact with the USS Fitzgerald, pushing it off course while trying to free itself from being hung on the bow below the waterline,” Watkins told the Free Beacon.

The ship then continued to sail on for another 15 minutes, increasing speed before eventually reducing speed and turning around. “This shows the autopilot was engaged because nobody would power out of an accident with another ship and keep sailing back on course. It’s unthinkable,” he added.

Watkins said the fact that the merchant ship hit something and did not radio the coast guard for almost 30 minutes also indicates no one was on the bridge at the time of the collision.

By 2:00 a.m., the freighter had turned around and headed back to the earlier position, according to the tracking data.

The officials said the Crystal eventually came upon the stricken Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald’s AIS data was not available so its track was not reported publicly.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson traveled to Japan to oversee the transfer of the fallen sailors.

“There are multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations underway to determine the facts of the collision,” Richardson said in a statement. “Our goal is to learn all we can to prevent future accidents from occurring. This process will unfold as quickly as possible, but it’s important to get this right.”

According to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, initial reports on the incident indicate no crew member was manning the controls in the pilot house of the Crystal when it hit the Fitzgerald.

After impact, the freighter’s was not immediately aware that it had collided with anything and continued sailing. The ship’s crew then realized it had been in a collision and sailed back to try to determine what had happened.

Transport safety authorities and coast guard investigators in Japan on Thursday announced the data recorder from the Crystal had been secured, the Associated Press reported. The freighter is currently docked in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The Navy and Coast Guard are investigating the incident. The Fitzgerald is currently at its home port of Yokosuka naval base. The investigation is expected to be completed in several months.

For the Navy, investigators are trying to determine why the ship’s radar and other sensors did not detect the Crystal in time to take steps to avoid the collision.

The Fitzgerald is equipped with the AN/SPS-64 advanced military navigation radar, and also uses a commercial radar system to enhance the shipping traffic picture of ships in its vicinity.

Navy ships operate radar systems to detect approaching ships or submarines. Lookouts posted on the bridge are responsible for detecting ships that pose a risk of collision.

Additionally, all commercial ships over 300 tons are required under international rules to operate AIS location data. AIS information from Crystal should have been monitored by sailors on the bridge of the Fitzgerald.

The sailors aboard the 505-foot-long Fitzgerald waged what officials said was a heroic battle about the ship to seal off flooding after the collision.

“We were struck by the stories of heroism and sacrifice—by both the sailors on board and their families back home—as they fought the damage to their ship and brought her back to Yokosuka,” Richardson said.

The ship was not in danger of sinking but was listing to one side and was able to remain under its own power.

The bodies of the seven dead sailors were found in sealed off areas of the ship on Sunday after it reached port.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet told reporters the Fitzgerald suffered extensive flooding and damage caused by a large puncture below the waterline on the starboard side underneath the pilot house.

The ship’s commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson was airlifted by Japanese coast guard helicopter. Two other injured sailors also were evacuated. All appear to have injuries that are not life threatening.

The officials said Benson was in his stateroom at the time of the collision.

The Fitzgerald was commissioned in 1995 and has a crew of some 300 crew members. It has a top speed of 30 knots and is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, SM-1 anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles, as well as machine guns and torpedoes.

The Crystal was built in South Korea, is 730 feet long and capable of carrying up to 2,858 shipping containers.

The Crystal is classified as a mid-size container ship part of the Asia Container Express or ACX, an Asian container shipping trade subsidiary of NYK Line, a global shipping division of Japan’s Mitsubishi.

‘An attack on free thought’–Middle East Eye responds to Saudi demands

‘An attack on free thought’: Middle East

Eye responds to Saudi demands

 

 

David Hearst/Editor-in-Chief, Middle East Eye

*Middle East Eye is independent of any government or movement and is not funded by Qatar
*MEE covers the area without fear or favour

*Saudi-led demands for media to close are designed to strangle independent views

*Gargash is frightened of a free press

A Saudi coalition of states has placed 13 demands on Qatar to lift their blockade, including the closure of Al Jazeera and what it states are publications and websites “directly or indirectly supported by Qatar”.

The list from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt also calls for Qatar to cut all ties with Iran, pay compensation to the petitioning states for “victims and losses” due to Qatari foreign policy and a 10-year “mechanism” to ensure Qatar sticks to the deal.
The media organisations the petition claims are “supported” by Qatar include Arabi21, al-Araby al-Jadeed, Sharq and the London-based Middle East Eye.
Qatar has 10 days to accept the demands, it said.
David Hearst, Middle East Eye’s editor-in-chief, said his organisation is not funded by Qatar – or any other state or group – and is here to stay.
“Middle East Eye is independent of any government or movement and is not funded by Qatar,” he said.
“Maybe the fate of Al Jazeera will depend on talks between the government of Qatar and its neighbours. But Middle East Eye is here to stay.
“MEE covers the area without fear or favour, and we have carried reports critical of the Qatari authorities, for instance how workers from the subcontinent are treated on building projects for the 2022 World Cup.”
On Thursday, the UAE’s foreign minister Anwar Gargash accused Al Jazeera of being a “news broadcast for the Muslim Brotherhood”.
“It is a mouthpiece for extremism. It has whitewashed personalities that have become symbols for terrorism.”
Hearst said these claims, and the petition’s demands for other media to close, were designed to strangle independent views.
“Obviously this is an attack on anyone in the Middle East who dares to offer an independent opinion,” he said.
“Mr Gargash is frightened of something we in Britain call a free press. The only media he knows is one whose editorial line he can dictate and whose journalists he can buy. I have news for him. That world is disappearing.”

Russia blasts U.S. “threat” over possible Syria chemical attack

Russia blasts U.S. “threat” over possible

Syria chemical attack

 

 

 

In an image provided by the U.S. Air Force, an F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2015, as the U.S. launched its first airstrikes by Turkey-based F-16 fighter jets against ISIS targets in Syria.

AP/Handout

MOSCOW — A senior Russian lawmaker on Tuesday dismissed the United States’ warning about a potential chemical weapons attack in Syria as an “unprecedented provocation,” and the Kremlin called the accusations against Syria’s government “unacceptable.”

In a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday night, the White House claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.

Assad has denied responsibility for the April 4 attack in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, and Russia, Assad’s key backer, sided with him.

Days later, President Trump launched a cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base from which U.S. officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack.

Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee at the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, on Tuesday accused the United States of “preparing a new attack on the positions of Syrian forces.” In comments to state-owned RIA Novosti, he added: “Preparations for a new cynical and unprecedented provocation are underway.”

Speaking later in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Mocow considers “such threats against the Syrian leadership to be unacceptable.”

British Foreign Minister Michael Fallon, however, told the BBC on Tuesday that the U.K. government would support any U.S. military action in case of a Syria chemical attack.

“As always in war, the military action you use must be justified, it must be legal, it must proportionate, it must be necessary. In the last case it was,” Fallon said.

“If the Americans take similar action again, I want to be very clear — we will support it.”

In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the U.S. had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities observed were similar to preparations taken before April 2017 chemical attack  that killed dozens of men, women and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The strike ordered by Mr. Trump on the Syrian airbase in retaliation for that attack was the first direct American assault on Syrian forces, and Mr. Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president just several months earlier.

Mr. Trump said at the time that the chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun had crossed “many, many lines,” and put the blame squarely on Assad’s forces.

Syria reiterated its insistence that it had never used chemical weapons, and blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory.

Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict, with the U.N. blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on the Islamic State group.

Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, added Monday on Twitter: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

The U.N. Security Council is meeting on Tuesday morning on Syria, expected to be briefed by Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura on political developments, CBS News’ Pamela Falk reports, and Council members will consider new information on chemical weapons attacks, during consultations following the meeting, diplomats said.

 

U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning

U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision

course despite warning – container ship

captain

FILE PHOTO: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed into the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
By Tim Kelly | TOKYO

A U.S. warship struck by a container vessel in Japanese waters failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before a collision that killed seven of its crew, according to a report of the incident by the Philippine cargo ship’s captain.

[Did the Arleigh-Burke Navy masterpiece refuse to yield to the Philippine container ship or was the ACX CRYSTAL at fault?  From the Google Map below, it would seem that the destroyer nearly came to a stop in the path of the Crystal.  Was there something on the cargo ship that the Navy was trying to intercept?]

https://fusiontables.google.com/DataSource?docid=1GGbErcKpS_OKWge8EN5U-aNSSO2EtC87-auJfdA7#map:id=3

Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship’s captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path.

The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula’s report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters.

The U.S. Navy declined to comment and Reuters was not able to independently verify the account.

The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald’s waterline, killing seven sailors in what was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen’s Aden harbor in 2000.

Those who died were in their berthing compartments, while the Fitzgerald’s commander was injured in his cabin, suggesting that no alarm warning of an imminent collision was sounded.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald’s home port, said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The incident has spurred six investigations, including two internal hearings by the U.S. Navy and a probe by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board. The Japan Transport Safety Board, the JCG and the Philippines government are also conducting separate investigations.

Spokesmen from the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), U.S. Coast Guard and ship owner, Dainichi Invest, also declined to comment. Reuters was not able to contact Advincula, who was no longer in Japan.

The investigations will examine witness testimony and electronic data to determine how a naval destroyer fitted with sophisticated radar could be struck by a vessel more than three times its size.

Another focus of the probes has been the length of time it took the ACX Crystal to report the collision. The JCG says it was first notified at 2:25 a.m., nearly an hour after the accident.

In his report, the ACX Crystal’s captain said there was “confusion” on his ship’s bridge, and that it turned around and returned to the collision site after continuing for 6 nautical miles (11 km).

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that the ACX Crystal, chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen KK (9101.T), made a complete U-turn between 12:58 a.m. and 2:46 a.m.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Alex Richardson)

UAE Monsters Run Secret Torture Prisons For United States In Yemen

MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.

The United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces run a secret network of prisons where prisoners are brutally tortured. The U.S. has questioned some detainees, and have regular access to their testimony — a potential violation of international law. (June 21)

The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years.

The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to Yemen Interior Minister Hussein Arab and others.

Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.

“We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” said chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White when presented with AP’s findings. “We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights.”

In a statement to the AP, the UAE’s government denied the allegations.

“There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations.”

Inside war-torn Yemen, however, lawyers and families say nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons, a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.

Looking out over part of Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura

None of the dozens of people interviewed by AP contended that American interrogators were involved in the actual abuses. Nevertheless, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party would violate the International Convention Against Torture and could qualify as war crimes, said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year

At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

“We could hear the screams,” said a former detainee held for six months at Riyan airport. “The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber.” He was flogged with wires, part of the frequent beatings inflicted by guards against all the detainees. He also said he was inside a metal shipping container when the guards lit a fire underneath to fill it with smoke.

Like other ex-detainees, he spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested again. The AP interviewed him in person in Yemen after his release from detention.

The AP interviewed 10 former prisoners, as well as a dozen officials in the Yemeni government, military and security services and nearly 20 relatives of detainees. The chief of Riyan prison, who is well known among families and lawyers as Emirati, did not reply to requests for comment.

Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, said the abuses “show that the US hasn’t learned the lesson that cooperating with forces that are torturing detainees and ripping families apart is not an effective way to fight extremist groups.” Human Rights Watch issued a report Thursday documenting torture and forced disappearances at the UAE-run prisons and calling on the Emirates to protect detainees’ rights.

Amnesty International called for a U.N.-led investigation “into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture” and into allegations the U.S. interrogated detainees or received information possibly obtained from torture. “It would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” said Amnesty’s director of research in the Middle East, Lynn Maalouf.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has praised the UAE as “Little Sparta” for its outsized role in fighting against al-Qaida.

U.S. forces send questions to the Emirati forces holding the detainees, which then send files and videos with answers, said Yemeni Brig. Gen. Farag Salem al-Bahsani, commander of the Mukalla-based 2nd Military District, which American officials confirmed to the AP. He also said the United States handed authorities a list of most wanted men, including many who were later arrested.

Al-Bahsani denied detainees were handed over to the Americans and said reports of torture are “exaggerated.”

18 secret prisons in Yemen controlled by the United Arab Emirates

The network of prisons echoes the secret detention facilities set up by the CIA to interrogate terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama disbanded the so-called “black sites.” The UAE network in war-torn Yemen was set up during the Obama administration and continues operating to this day.

“The UAE was one of the countries involved in the CIA’s torture and rendition program,” said Goodman, the NYU law professor. “These reports are hauntingly familiar and potentially devastating in their legal and policy implications.”

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition meant to help Yemen’s government fight Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who overran the north of the country. At the same time, the coalition is helping the U.S. target al-Qaida’s local branch, one of the most dangerous in the world, as well as Islamic State militants.

A small contingent of American forces routinely moves in and out of Yemen, the Pentagon says, operating largely along the southern coast. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has escalated drone strikes in the country to more than 80 so far this year, up from around 21 in 2016, the U.S. military said. At least two commando raids were ordered against al-Qaida, including one in which a Navy SEAL was killed along with at least 25 civilians.

A U.S. role in questioning detainees in Yemen has not been previously acknowledged.

Inside a secret prison in Yemen

A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations. He did not have access to the lower decks. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation for discussing the operations.

Senior U.S. defense officials flatly denied the military conducts any interrogations of Yemenis on any ships.

“We have no comment on these specific claims,” said Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman, adding that any allegations of abuse are taken seriously.

This Yemeni man says his son was detained and has since disappeared.

The Yemeni officer did not specify if the ‘Americans on ships’ were U.S. military or intelligence personnel, private contractors, or some other group.

Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt. The three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the U.S. role.

The AP learned the names of five suspects held at black sites who were said to have been interrogated by Americans. The Yemeni official on the ship identified one of the detainees brought there. Four others were identified by former detainees who said they were told directly by the men themselves that they were questioned by Americans.

One detainee, who was not questioned by U.S. personnel, said he was subject to constant beatings by his Yemeni handlers but was interrogated only once.

“I would die and go to hell rather than go back to this prison,” he said. “They wouldn’t treat animals this way. If it was bin Laden, they wouldn’t do this.”

___

Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor and Desmond Butler in Washington and Ahmed al-Haj and Maad al-Zikry in Yemen contributed to this report.

___

Follow Maggie Michael on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mokhbersahafi

US Claims That Pentagon Would Welcome Effective Syrian Effort To Defeat ISIS

US would welcome effective Syrian effort

to defeat IS

 

 

By robert burns, ap national security writer

 

The U.S. military coalition fighting the Islamic State would welcome a concerted effort by the Syrian government or its Iranian-backed partner forces to defeat IS in its remaining strongholds in eastern Syria, a U.S. spokesman said Friday.

Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the coalition, told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. goal is to defeat IS wherever it exists. If others, including the Syrian government and its Iranian and Russian allies, want to fight the extremists as well, then “we absolutely have no problem with that,” he said, speaking from Baghdad.

“If it looks like they are making a concerted effort to move into ISIS-held areas, and if they show that they can do that, that is not a bad sign,” Dillon said, referring to forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. “We are here to fight ISIS as a coalition, but if others want to fight ISIS and defeat them, then we absolutely have no problem with that.”

Washington severed diplomatic relations with Syria during the Obama administration, which insisted that Assad “must go.” More recently, Assad has strengthened his position, regaining key territory from weakened opposition forces.

The battlespace in Syria is getting more crowded and complex as IS-held territory shrinks, raising questions about how the various parties will interact or avoid one another. Syrian government troops, for example, have reached the Iraqi border in an area where IS leaders have been gathering. The area is far from the main battle lines of Syria’s civil war.

The U.S. so far has shunned any cooperation with Assad and has partnered instead with local Arab and Kurdish forces in fighting IS. Those local forces, which the U.S. calls the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are currently fighting to recapture the extremists’ self-declared capital of Raqqa.

Last weekend, for the first time, the U.S. shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had dropped bombs near the SDF. Two other times this month the U.S. has shot down Iranian-made drones in southern Syria that were deemed to pose a threat to U.S. and partner forces.

Key remaining IS territory includes the cities of Deir el-Zour and Abu Kamal, along the Euphrates River Valley.

Dillon said that as Syrian government forces move toward Abu Kamal, “if they want to fight ISIS in Abu Kamal and they have the capacity to do so, then that would be welcomed. We as a coalition are not in the land-grab business. We are in the killing-ISIS business. That is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do that and they’re going to put forth a concerted effort and show that they are doing just that in Abu Kamal or Deir el-Zour or elsewhere, that means that we don’t have to do that in those places.”

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