McCain: Russian airstrikes target CIA-backed rebels

Story highlights

  • Sen. John McCain said that Russian airstrikes were targeted at CIA-backed rebels in Syria
  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that Putin's approach was "pouring gasoline on the fire" in Syria

Washington (CNN)Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he has confirmed that some of Russian airstrikes in Syria were aimed not at ISIS, but instead at CIA-backed fighters taking on the Assad regime.

"Their initial strikes were against the individuals and the groups that have been funded and trained by our CIA, in a credible flaunting of any kind of cooperation or effort to conceal what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's priority is -- and that is, of course, to prop up (Syrian President) Bashar Assad," McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day."
    McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he "can absolutely confirm to you that they were strikes against our Free Syrian Army, or groups that have been armed and trained by the CIA, because we have communications with people there."
    The Russian Defense Ministry announced Wednesday it had targeted eight ISIS positions in Syria. But U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said later in the day, "I want to be careful about confirming information, but it does appear that they (Russian airstrikes) were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces."
    Carter said Wednesday that Putin's approach of supporting Assad while also fighting ISIS, amounted "to pouring gasoline on the fire."