President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday met privately, about their opposite views of the 40-year-old war in Syria that has led to the rise of ISIS and set off an enormous refugee crisis.
All this on the same day the Pentagon was forced to concede a key part of the president’s Syria policy is a dismal failure. The program to train and equip Syrian opposition forces has been suspended.
The $500-million program had once been a linchpin of the strategy to defeat ISIS but so far has proved a fiasco. It was put on hold after a band of fighters turned over their U.S.-supplied equipment to terrorists linked to al Qaeda.
An embarrassing development Russia’s Putin could not resist mentioning in his address to the United Nations.
“First, they are armed and trained and then they are defect,” he said in Russian.
Putin has injected himself into the middle of the battle for Syria with the sudden and unexpected establishment of an air base in western Syria. Pentagon officials say it is the largest Russian military deployment ever outside the borders of the old Soviet Union.
Hiding from radar in the wake of large transport planes — a total of 28 fighter jets have flown into the base.
The Russians have also stationed 16 helicopters along with surveillance drones. Putin claims they are ready to join the fight against ISIS.
But he seems to make no distinction between ISIS and other groups trying to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, some of which are supported by the U.S.
Although the jets have not flown any combat missions yet, the drones have been conducting surveillance flights to the east of the base where opposition groups — but not ISIS — are located.
Not since last year when ISIS swept across Iraq have the facts on the ground changed so dramatically as they have in the past month.
By David Martin – CBS News