22:46 GMT +320 February 2018
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    Sen. John McCain

    McCain Claims to Be in Touch With Syrian Rebels

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    McCain told Sputnik that he stays in contact with members of Syria opposition allegedly targeted by Russian airstrikes.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain told Sputnik that he stays in contact with members of Syria opposition allegedly targeted by Russian airstrikes.

    "I am personally in communication with them [the Syrian moderates], and they are being attacked," McCain stated on Tuesday.

    According to the Russian Defense Ministry, all the airstrikes against the Islamic State terrorist group were launched with advance air surveillance and careful verification of data provided by the Syrian military.

    McCain asserted, however, that "the majority of the Russian attacks are against the Free Syrian Army, the moderates."

    Asked what sources he bases his conclusions on, McCain stated, "There is open source information, of course. It has been reported widely in every major newspaper in America."

    On September 30, Russia commenced precision airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIL) targets in Syria at the request from Syrian President Bashar Assad. Since then, Russia has targeted dozens of ISIL positions, including command centers, headquarters, multiple-launch rocket systems, T-55 tanks, and other military equipment.

    Only hours after Russia started airstrikes against terrorist targets in Syria, US media reports began circulating accusations of Russia striking moderate Syrians trained under the 2014 US train and equip program and the earlier CIA program.

    In 2014, Congress approved a $500 million program for the US military to train a force of 5,400 troops by the end of 2015 to fight the ISIL.

    On September 16, US Central Command Commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin, stunned the Senate Armed Services Committee by admitting that out of the first group of trained fighters sent to Syria only four or five remained active.

    McCain also claims that US-trained Syrian moderate rebels are losing confidence in their ability to fight as a result of a lack of US support.

    "Their morale is at an all-time low because Americans trained them, equipped them, sent them into fight and then won’t protect them against being killed," McCain said on Tuesday.

    McCain was an early supporter of the CIA program to arm and train Syrian moderates to fight President Assad in the early stages of the Syrian civil war. The Senator famously posed for a picture with members of the US-backed Syrian opposition in 2013. Some news outlets later alleged the Syrians went on to join the Islamic State.

    Related:

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    McCain: EU Migrant Crisis ‘Predictable Result’ of Obama Policy in Syria
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