WASHINGTON --The use of airstrikes has been authorized by President Obama in order to defend a U.S. trained force of Syrian rebels if it comes under attack from other military forces, including the Bashar Assad regime, U.S. officials said.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that U.S. officials had made the decision after months of debating the role of the U.S. military in relation to its allies in the Syrian crisis. The officials had been careful about any such confrontation because of the risk of bringing the American military into conflict with Assad's forces.
"We view the Syrian forces trained and equipped by the Department of Defense as partners in the counter-ISIL effort," Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the National Security Council, using another term for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), confirmed to CBS News. "These forces are being provided with a wide range of Coalition support in their mission to counter-ISIL, which includes defensive fires support to protect them.
"We won't get into the specifics of our rules of engagement, but have said all along that we would take the steps necessary to ensure that these forces could successfully carry out their mission," said Baskey."
However, officials did not say a confrontation was likely anytime in the near future despite the new authorization.