U.S. says Russian campaign in Syria helping the Islamic State

Photo by Aleksey Nikolskyi/Sputnik/Kremlin/via Reuters

The U.S. and Russian President Vladimir Putin have clashed over their visions for resolving the Syrian crisis. Photo by Aleksey Nikolskyi/Sputnik/Kremlin/via Reuters

WASHINGTON — The U.S. says Russia’s counterterrorism campaign in Syria is actually helping the Islamic State.

Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s point-man for defeating the group, says a Russian-backed offensive in northern Syria is targeting rebel fighters who were battling the Islamic State and who now have to face the Syrian military.

McGurk tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “What Russia’s doing is directly enabling ISIL.”

He says Russia is strengthening the Syria’s government, worsening a humanitarian crisis and fueling extremism.

McGurk, who will meet Russian and other diplomats at a conference on Syria later this week, called the developments “totally unacceptable.”