WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia is in search of to counter U.S. diplomatic affect by stoking battle in Syria even because it portrays itself as an arbiter within the civil struggle, the highest American normal within the Center East mentioned Tuesday in notably pointed criticism of Moscow.

“I am being very severe once I say they play the function of each arsonist and fireman — fueling tensions after which making an attempt to resolve them of their favor,” Military Gen. Joseph Votel instructed the Home Armed Providers Committee. He mentioned Moscow is pushing alternate options to Western-led political negotiations in each Syria and Afghanistan with the intention to restrict U.S. affect.

Russia “has to confess” that it’s incapable of, or not concerned with, enjoying a constructive function in ending the multi-dimensional struggle in Syria, he mentioned.

“I feel their function is extremely destabilizing at this level,” he mentioned.

For its half, the Russian navy has persistently accused the U.S. of sparing the Islamic State group and different militants in Syria within the hope of utilizing them to topple President Bashar Assad. Russian officers have strongly denied duty for any civilian casualties in Syria and insisted that they’ve solely struck militant targets after verifying their location by a number of intelligence sources and prevented focusing on populated areas. Russian navy officers and diplomats even have scolded the U.S.-led coalition for lowering the one-time IS capital, Raqqa, to rubble and inflicting extreme struggling for its residents.

On the navy entrance in Syria, Votel mentioned Russia is utilizing the battle to check and train new weapons and ways, “typically with little regard for collateral injury or civilian casualties.” He asserted that a rise in Russian surface-to-air missile techniques within the Center East “threatens our entry and skill to dominate the airspace” of the area.

He mentioned that together with Iran, Russia is making an attempt to bolster the Assad authorities and fracture the longstanding strategic partnership between the US and Turkey. Washington and Ankara are more and more at odds over the presence of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters regarded by the Turks as aligned with Kurdish terrorists.

Alluding to those fighters, who function beneath the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Votel mentioned, “our companions on the bottom in Syria have superior us a good distance towards our targets, and we are going to keep on with them by the completion of this battle,” referring to the purpose of eliminating the Islamic State’s shrinking maintain on Syrian territory.

Russian officers say they search the destruction of IS at the same time as they help Assad’s effort to stamp out opposition forces. Votel mentioned Moscow ought to get no credit score for what he known as the upcoming defeat of the Islamic State’s “bodily caliphate.”

“Russia has positioned this progress in danger with their actions, which aren’t targeted on defeating ISIS, however quite on preserving their very own affect and management over the end result of the scenario,” he mentioned, utilizing an alternate identify for the extremist group. “It’s clear that Russia’s pursuits in Syria are … not these of the broader worldwide group.”

Votel mentioned Moscow is also exaggerating the presence of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan and portraying it as a U.S. and NATO failure.

“Whereas the (U.S.-led) coalition and the Afghans are the one forces actively preventing ISIS there, Russia has used acquainted propaganda strategies to model ISIS’s presence as a U.S.-NATO failure,” Votel mentioned.

As IS loses its grip in Syria and Iraq, U.S. forces are turning more and more to the battle in Afghanistan, the place American commanders are attempting to energise Afghan fight forces and break a stalemate within the lengthy battle in opposition to a Taliban insurgency.

“Army success within the marketing campaign up so far presents us a chance to reposition a few of our sources from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan in a fashion that retains the strain on ISIS, but in addition units us as much as break the stalemate in Afghanistan,” Votel mentioned.

U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan since October 2001, once they invaded in response to the 9/11 assaults by al-Qaida.

Votel additionally expressed concern about Iranian affect in Syria and Iraq, whereas noting that Iranian harassment of U.S. Navy vessels within the Persian Gulf has declined. Votel mentioned he nonetheless is anxious by Iran’s rising used of drone plane, which he mentioned pose a possible risk within the Gulf.

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