Pentagon pulls back on ISIS strikes in Syria

Pentagon pulls back on ISIS strikes in Syria
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The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State is pulling back on its airstrikes near the Syrian city of Raqqa amid "tensions" following a U.S. missile strike in the country last week.

“We have made adjustments to our operations to account for the potential tensions that resulted from the strikes that were conducted because of the Syrian regime’s chemical attack,” Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday.

“But make no mistake, we do plan on continuing our operations and we do continue to look for ways to accelerate them.”

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President Trump last week ordered a cruise missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in the country's Idlib Province that left more than 80 civilians dead. Syria's military under President Bashar Assad allegedly carried out the chemical attack.

Syria's civil war has pitted Assad against a number of groups, from coalition-backed groups to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The move raised tensions with Russia, a strong backer of the Assad regime.

U.S. Central Command earlier this week said offensive strike operations in Syria slacked off in the aftermath of the cruise missile strike. Officials were fearful of any retaliation attacks related to the missile strikes, but so far no incidents have been reported.

In the past week, the coalition has conducted 123 strikes to isolate and help liberate Raqqa, which is controlled by ISIS. In comparison, the U.S. conducted more than 7,800 airstrikes in Syria as of March 28, according to the Pentagon. 

“It’s just appropriate to make sure that you’re taking appropriate measures to account for that,” Dorrian said. “We don’t want to be reckless and we don’t want to have some type of incident that would cause a miscalculation, or some type of unintended incident.”

Dorrian would not detail what adjustments were made to operations in Syria, but said the Pentagon did “account for the fact that the strikes against the Syrian regime chemical capability did increase tensions there."

"The intent is to get back as quickly as possible to our normal operations and as fast a pace as we can manage,” he added.

About 500 special operations forces are in Syria to train and advise Kurdish and Arab rebel forces fighting ISIS, and last month an additional 400 Marine Corps and Army Ranger troops arrived to help take Raqqa.

Dorrian added that there have been no threatening moves against U.S. troops in Syria by Russian or Syrian forces since the strike.