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U.S. jets diverted to Iraq, abandoning Syrian rebels

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Posted at 8:41 AM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 08:41:14-04

U.S. support jets assisting Syrian rebels diverted to Iraq to strike suspected ISIS militants last week, according to a senior U.S. official, leaving the rebels without badly needed air cover.

“The timing was not ideal,” the official said.

One aircraft flying air support missions over Al-Bukamal during the recent fighting there was called off and diverted to strike at a massive convoy of suspected ISIS militants that had been observed to be trying to leave the southern outskirts of Fallujah, according to the senior U.S. official. Several aircraft were diverted from various patrols in different parts of Iraq, but only one was taken away from the Al-Bukamal battle.

The Washington Post first reported the incident.

It’s not clear when and if other aircraft were sent to Al-Bukamal, but it left fighters of the U.S.-backed and Pentagon-trained New Syrian Army without the air cover needed in the Al-Bukamal area as ISIS staged a counterattack on the ground.

Several New Syrian Army fighters were killed and wounded, according to U.S. officials.

The battle for Al-Bukamal has now continued for several days indicating both the strength of ISIS in the area to dominate civilians and the lack of capability by the New Syrian Army.

U.S. officials believe that some New Syrian Army weapons and equipment have likely fallen into ISIS hands as the New Syrian Army fighters retreated.

“We clearly didn’t get everything because we saw Daesh displaying equipment that had been left behind by the New Syrian Army as it pulled out of the area,” Col. Christopher Garver, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said.