BBC News reports: The US representative to the United Nations has said that the US is no longer prioritising the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters on Thursday “we can’t necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did”.
Under President Barack Obama, the US said Assad must go and backed rebels fighting against him.
But US resources shifted after the rise of the so-called Islamic state.
“Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” said Mrs Haley.
“Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done, who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria,” she added.
BBC State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher says Mrs Haley is stating something quite bluntly that has quietly been US policy for some time.
The battle against IS in Syria became the overriding priority in the last year of the Obama administration, says our correspondent. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: A United States military spokesman said Thursday that Islamic State fighters had been herding local Iraqi residents into buildings in western Mosul, calculating that rising civilian casualties would restrain the United States from using airstrikes to help retake that half of the city.
“What you see now is not the use of civilians as human shields,” said Col. Joseph E. Scrocca, a spokesman for the American-led task force that is battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “ISIS is smuggling civilians into buildings so we won’t see them and trying to bait the coalition to attack.”
An episode this week in which Islamic State fighters forced civilians inside a building, killing one who resisted, was observed by American surveillance aircraft. Islamic State fighters then positioned themselves inside the same structure to fire on Iraqi forces, according to an account provided in a briefing for Pentagon reporters by Colonel Scrocca. [Continue reading…]