U.S. general urges caution in Syria skies as Islamic State shrinks

by Reuters
Friday, 24 February 2017 16:59 GMT

WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The United States and Russia need to enhance communication to avoid accidents in the skies over Syria because air space is shrinking as Islamic State loses more territory, a top U.S. Air Force general said on Friday.

Air Force General Herbert Carlisle called for greater communication, but stopping short of coordination, with Russia over Syria through a channel that Moscow and Washington already have for avoiding each other. In 2015, they agreed to create a ground communication link and outline steps their pilots could take to avoid an inadvertent clash over Syria.

"It is going to become more and more complex as time goes on and as we continue to squeeze ISIS and take continually more territory away from them it becomes even more complex," Carlisle

told reporters, using an acronym for Islamic State. He leads the Air Force's Air Combat Command,

The militant group is under pressure from a U.S.-led coalition and Russian air strikes, as well as on other fronts.

Turkey-backed rebels drove Islamic State from the Syrian town of al-Bab on Thursday and Iraq has ordered its air force to strike Islamic State positions inside Syria in retaliation for recent bomb attacks in Baghdad.

Earlier this month the top U.S. and Russian military leaders agreed to enhance communication to avoid "unintended consequences" in Syria.

Despite the latest safety effort, U.S. President Donald Trump's defense secretary has ruled out fuller military collaboration with Russia, in a blow to Moscow's hopes to mend ties with Washington after Trump's election. (Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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