U.S. Sen. John McCain said Thursday some of the Russian airstrikes in Syria had targeted CIA-supported fighters opposing that country’s leadership and not just ISIS.
McCain (R-Ariz.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN, “(I) can absolutely confirm to you that they were strikes against our Free Syrian Army, or groups that have been armed and trained by the CIA, because we have communications with people there.”
Russian jets appeared to be primarily bombing central and northwestern Syria, strategic regions that are the gateway to President Bashar Assad’s strongholds in the capital Damascus and the coast.
The United States and allies fear that Russia, which has backed the Assad family since the current leader’s father was in power, is using the air campaign as a pretext to shore up dwindling defenses — not go after Islamic State.
“Their initial strikes were against the individuals and the groups that have been funded and trained by our CIA, in a credible flaunting of any kind of cooperation or effort to conceal what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s priority is — and that is, of course, to prop up (Syrian President) Bashar Assad,” McCain said in the interview.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov of Russia said aircraft damaged or destroyed 12 targets in Syria belonging to the Islamic State group.
Officials said, however, that other unidentified groups were also being targeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.