Coalition: Syrian Focus on Aleppo Let ISIS Retake Key City

Syrian forces and their Russian allies “took their eye off” gains around the country to focus on battering the rebels inside Aleppo, prompting ISIS to sense a weakness and retake the ancient city of Palmyra, the head US official in the fight against the group said. ISIS fighters retook the ancient UNESCO heritage site this week, months after Syrian and Russian forces first claimed it. US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said Wednesday that Syria and Russia “were so focused on Aleppo … they didn’t properly secure their gains.” Because ISIS has not been able to retake ground in Iraq or succeed in any attacks on US, coalition, or Iraqi forces, they saw this weak spot and “had a little bit of a victory,” he said. While the coalition expects Russia to “address it here in short order,” intelligence has shown ISIS gaining equipment such as armored vehicles, heavy guns, and even possibly air defense systems. If Russia and Syria does not hit ISIS, the coalition will move. “ISIL’s managed to get their hands on some equipment there,” Townsend said. “We’re watching that, and as soon as we have an opportunity, if the Russians don’t [strike], we will.”