The northward push by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with heavy backing from Russian air power, is frustrating U.S. officials while simultaneously deepening the divide between Washington and some of its would-be allies on the ground.
U.S. military officials caution that the regime advance has yet to substantially weaken the American-directed fight against the Islamic State terror group in Syria. But they worry it may be only a matter of time.
“We are concerned that forces that we're working with to focus on Daesh are focused on other things,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters Wednesday, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Already, the U.S. has seen indications that moderate rebel groups are shifting resources from their fight with Islamic State along the so-called Mare’ line, which extends from the northern town of Mare’ to the Turkish border, to try to counter the regime advance.
“It bleeds combat power,” Warren said of the rebels’ response, describing the regime’s northward push as a “perceived threat.”