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tv   Wolf  CNN  September 30, 2015 10:00am-11:01am PDT

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when it comes to policy decisions, there are, i don't have a lot of news to make in this regard, but there are two observations that i made, and the first is that the president when announcing the decisions in the past when it comes to the military commitment to afghanistan has routinely noted that the conditions on the ground influence that policy process. so i would expect that would, that that would be the case in this circumstance as well. at the same time we have always warned against the inkri nation to make snap decision on policy almost literally overnight. so that is why we will continue to monitor the efforts by the afghan government and the afghan forces to retake kunduz and that
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is going to factor into a long-term assessment of the conditions on the ground which will influence longer term po policy decisions of the president that he has to make. >> and has the president received those recommendations from the commanders in a formal way at this time? >> well, i don't have an update for you in in terms of the commander in chief and the commanderers on the ground, but as you know, josh, the president gets regular briefings and updates of the military commanders through the chain of command, and that is certainly going to continue. >> and at the united nations to today, palestinian president abbas said that he is no longer bound by agreements with israel, and they will start to pursue legal means to pursue the palestinian statehood, and they are basically abandoning the direct negotiations approach that has been your approach for a very long time now, and what is the u.s. response to the palestinians dismissing that approach? >> well, i believe that the
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prime minister or president was speaking there as i was walking out here, so i don't have a comment on that, but i will say that the president today is committed to the achieving peace, and that the palestinians and the israelis deserve. we have described a resolution of the conflict as a two-state solution that results in two states for two peoples with the sovereign and viable palestinian state living side by side with the peaceful jewish and democratic israel. that is our position for some time, and continues to be the position today. julia? >> thank you, josh. go going back to russia's involvement in syria, and you told josh that the defense department is reviewing the actions. >> yes. >> the deputy defense secretary told lawmakers on the hill that the move was al larping and aggression, and that it had come before discussions they promised
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to have on deconflicting, and is that same level of surprise being share ed d by the white h? >> i did not see those particular comments. i think that what is clear is that we have known for quite some time, and when i say we, i mean all of you as well, because we are have had public discussions about the significant deployment of assets and personnel by the russians into syria. so it is not particularly surprising that that russia is using the new military capabilities particularly in light of their longstanding efforts to prop up the assad regime. and in light of the continuing weakness of the assad regime in terms of the ability to control territory inside of that country, the russians felt that
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they needed to ramp up the efforts, and the reason that i think that the second data point that i would that i would remind you of is that the reason that president obama and president putin prioritized and age greed upon the need for operational tactical level conversations to deconflict military operations inside of syria, you would need to have conversations to deconflict military operations inside of syria if you didn't have plans for military operations inside of syria, and so the point is that u.s. military officials have been in touch with the russian counterparts to set up the conversations, and i would expect that the conversations will take place in short order. >> yes. president obama, and president putin discussed the the need for
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conversations to deconflict, but in the hour and a half conversation that they had at the united nations, did anything, and did president obama get any indication from president putin about the timing of the strikes or the targets or something left completely off of the table? >> well, i think they what i would say is that there was not a operational level conversation or the kinds of conversations that both presidents expect their military officials to engage in, and like i said a that the united states has been in touch with russian military officials to begin those tactical practical level conversations to ensure that our military activities, and russian mi military activities are properly deconflicted. >> on the hill yesterday, the lawmakers reached a compromise on the annual defense
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authorization bill, and they have it to use $90 billion from special war funds to avoid sequestration, and would the white house oppose this bill in that it would end sequestration for defense but not other programs? >> we would oppose the bill for the reasons that you have described. because that is an irresponsible way to the fund the defense priority, and even the republicans in congress have referred to it as a slush fund, and so it is not a partisan response, but we know that it is a view shared by the republicans on capitol hill. i'd also point to you and direct you to the statement made by the ranking member of the armed service committee jack reed, a west point graduate from rhode island. according to his news release, he said that there are many needed reforms in the conference committee report, but the use of
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emergency war funds does not provide for the long term support of the forces. and senator reid said that i cannot sign this conference report, because it does not fix the sequester, and provide the troops with the support they deserve -- all right. we will continue to monitor this white house briefing, and josh earnest making statements on the breaking news unfolding in syria, and in the war against isis. we want to welcome the viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer reporting from washington. the breaking news, russia has launched the first air strikes inside of syria, but was it actually targeting isis or was it targeting something else? russian warplanes carried out the attack near the syrian city of homs, but a senior administration official tells cnn that the strike, quote, has no strategic purpose in term of combatting isis. "and the russian president sas s that syrian president bashar al
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assad asked for the attack. and president obama is calling for the end to assad's presidency, but the u.s. secretary of state john kerry says that the administration is now calling for what he describes as therderly managed transition. a while ago kerry responded to russia's growing involvement in syria, and whether it is committed to stamping out isis. >> if russia's recent actions and those now ongoing reflect a genuine commitment to defeat that organization, then we are prepared to welcome those efforts, and to find a way to deconflict the operation, and thereby multpy pli the military pressure on isil, and the affiliated groups, but we must not and will not be kon fconfus the fight against isil for the support of assad.
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and moreover, we have made it clear that we have grave concerns that russia should strike where isil and other affiliated groups are not operating. that type of attack would question russia's protection of isil and assad's regime. >> and so what were the air strikes today, and what are the implications. let's bring in elise labot, and former general mark hertling and commander retired robert ford. and what were you hearing this morning, elise? >> well, that is right. the russians were targeting
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homs, and some of the people who follow the region closely, homs is not an area where isis is concentrated, it is more of the free syrian army, the opposition groups on the ground and al nusra who is considered a terrorist group by the united states, but it is against the assad regime, and this is going to bolster the u.s. concerns that the russians are not targeting isil or isis as they s say, but they are going after targets to secure the syrian military and strengthen bashar al assad, and that is the real concern that the russians will use the pretext of being on the ground to go after the legitimate opposition. >> and that is the concern, general hertling, and you will hear from the officials here in washington that russia is using the regime to bolster the president bashar al assad, and also to strengthen and improve russia's position in that part of the world. >> of course, it s wolf. anyone who believed that russia
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was going in to support assad in a fight against isil does not understand is situation there. assad has never fought isil in his own country, and russia has two military bases which will give him access to mediterranean around damascus, and in tar tufa and latikia, and no matter what he and the defense ministry s secretary are saying. he is there to give them power against the moderate syrians trying to overthrow the government. there is very little interest in overcoming isis which is something that mr. assad has not paid a whole lot of attention to recently. >> and having said, that phil, there are russian security officials who say that 2400 russian citizens have gone over to the start fighting for eye circumstances and how worried would the government in moscow be to their return to
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potentially carry out attacks in russia? >> well, they have multiple reasons to do that and the first is that they have foreign fighters there to dwarff what we have seen travel from america, and they have had a longstanding problem with extremist, and there is a secondary reason for putin to be there, and that is to train the isis people coming in. and i have to agree with the general, this is not about isis, but it is the reinstitution of the russian state, and in the soviet empire, you had from iraq to syria and egypt, and this is p putin to say, i am back the play, and you can't do anything about it, and if you try to get in the way, i am going to go anyw anyway. and so this is clear what putin sup to. >> and in is part of the breaking news, russia launching air strikes inside of syria. and also coming up, more w
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worrisome news for both the united states and nato. a third straight day, the afghan forces are struggling to re-take kunduz, and it is part of the agricultural town which is near the border of afghanistan and tajikistan, and they are getting out by rickshaw, horse, and some by foot, and afghan officials say they are suffering from the shortage of troops, and some are stuck in a small province, and while a small group of soldiers are there, u.s. officials say that the afghan soldiers have to lead the effort to get a hold of the city. and now for more on this story, the former ambassador to afghanistan and also former ambassador to syria, and ryan
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crocker. thank you for joining us. it seems that the afghan forces trained by the u.s., and armed by the u.s. and costing the u.s. taxpayers literally tens of b l billions of dollars in recent years, and they are running away from the large city like kunduz and a city of 300,000, and reminds me of the iraqi troops who ran away from mosul when a few isis forces came in. >> yes sh, wolf. it does all too clearly remind us of what happened in mosul. i don't know the dynamics of kunduz, because it is is long a pashtun area. clearly, we are going to have to figure it out, and we will have to sit down with the afghans, and see what can be done to retake the city, but then look more broadly at capabilities, morale and motivations of the
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afghan security forces, and what we can help them to do to make sure that they see that it is not the beginning of the long spiral down. >> the u.s. air strike, and apparently some limited air strikes have been involved now, and they are trying to bolster what is remaining of the afghan forces in kunduz, and is that o going to make a difference? >> i have heard about the air strike, and also aware that we have special forces moving into the ckunduz airport area. this can make a difference whether it is the iraqi troops or the afghanistan troops, and if there is american embedded with them, and american air support, they will fight better. unlike iraq, we are still at least in afghanistan and in a substantial way with 9,800 troops and the coalition allies. i'd hate to think of what this would look like down to the stated goal of the embassy presence of 1,000. >> and what would happen, do you
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think? >> i fear that you would see something similar to what we are seeing in iraq, a complete unraveling. kunduz is not that unravel iingt a least not yet. it is a one city and major setback, but it is not a taliban sweep all through afghanistan as we did with the islamic state in iraq. so we are positioned is with our forces there, with the commander s there to help the afghans steady out, and then one hopes to retake the city. without us there, what is bad news to day would be far worse tomorrow. >> and billions of dollars spent to train the afghan and iraqi troops as well, and a lot of people are wondering why to send that kind of money over there if after the u.s. leaves and at some point the u.s. will leave, it is simply going to go back to
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either the taliban in afghanistan or the militias taking over, and pro iranian militias or whatever in iraq? >> the argument i would make, wolf, is precisely that. it is about the u.s. leaving. it does not work to pushing a whole lot of money into standing up a major military and then to say, you are on your own. this can be a multi year, and even a generational process. and its chances of success are tied to the commitment that we are going to make to make it work. and i'm not talking about sending back in the 101st airborne to afghanistan or to iraq. i am simply saying that we need to make the commitment to a sustained presence, a sustained commitment to helping the afghan
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government and security forces to stabilize the situation, and it is going to take years. we can walk away from it, and we will get what we got in iraq. >> and basically to what happened before the u.s. got involved in huge number, because it is looking gloomy right now. ambassador crocker always good to get your perspective, and thank you very much. >> thank you, wolf. >> up next, more on the breaking news, and russia launch iing ai strikes for the first time in inside of syria, and if they aret no targeting isis, then who are they targeting? i will be speaking with the chairman of the armed services committee max thornberry when we come back. woman: my mom and i have the same hands.
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let's get back to the breaking news. our top story is russia launching air strikes against targets in syria, but the icsil is not believed to be the target s. and joining us is the chairman of the armed services committee max thornberry, and thank you for joining us, and you are well briefed on what is going on, and what is russia doing to launch these air strikes in homs where there are not apparently a whole lot of isis troops. >> russia is there to support assad, and it is very clear even though he has, and he is a murderer and he has used chemical weapons against his own people, and russia sees them as a proxy, ally to be supported against all enemies whether it is eisis or whether it is the more moderate forces that we are supporting. so i think that you are seeing a weak inadequate u.s. policy
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toward syria merging with a weak inadequate u.s. policy that is not working against isis, and it is creating this vortex in u.s. national security interests that are falling down into it. >> and what is so worrying, mr. chairman, an hour before the russiansunched the air strik strikes, they notified the u.s. that they cannot fly in the air space, because it is russian air space right now, and that is pr pretty bold. >> and it is bold, but it is not out of the blue, and they have been increasingly bold over the past few years, and not only in ukraine, but with the submarine routes and the airplane routes they have been taking very close to some nato forces, and to some nato kcountries. so they have become increasingly bold, and nothing ever happens, so it does go back to the old line that people attribute to
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lenin, probe with the bayonet, and when you encounter mush, continue, and if you hit steel, stop. >> so when you hear secretary of state john kerry speak, he says that maybe there sis an opportunity to fight isis with coordination of russia and maybe iran. what is your reaction? >> despair, because what that means is that our secretary of state is willing to turn over leadership in the world to a coalition of russia and iran to back up syria. it is is very concerning. you know, what it looks like to me is that the administration is willing to just run out the clock, and even though they have gotten a year-plus left, they don't want to engage. they will just sit back and let whatever happens happen, but the
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problem is that the world is spiraling increasingly out of control, and it does not look like this white house is even wanting the do something and it. >> and on top of all of this, the awful situation unfolding in syria, the humanitarian plight, and what is going noniraq, and look at what is going on in afghanistan, mr. chairman, right now, and a large city kunduz, and 300,000 people, and the city the size of approximately cincinnati right now, and the taliban regaining control. afghan forces are e fleeing, and thousands of civilians evacuating and getting out of there right now despite the tense of billions of dollar s that the u.s. spent in training these afghan troops. how disheartening is that to you? >> well, it is very discouraging. i was interested in your conversation with am bbassador crocker a few moments ago. and remember, and i think that he is exactly right, this is head headed towards another situation like we had in iraq, and remember that the military had a plan for how many people they wanted to the stay in afghanistan to provide this
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advise and assist mission. the white house did not want to do that and they insisted on getting below 10,000 people, and i was in afghanistan earlier in the month, and most of the advising is now done from kabul over a videoconference. well, you can't really see what is happening on the ground when you are doing it over a computer monitor. and so, i'm afraid that we have, again, cut too fast, too far, and the afghans were not ready to take up the full mantle of their security responsibilities without us being there to help advise them. i hope they can turn it around. i think it is very important for our security that we help them to turn it around. >> and huge challenge for the afghan security forces for the u.s. and for the nato allies still there, and as you said about 9,800 troops still there in afghan. thank you for joining us. >> thank you for having me.
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>> macthornberry, the chairman of the armed services committee. and now, blasting president obama for not taking enough action by senator john mccain. you will hear that, and also, more on syria launching air strikes within syria coming up.
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end this injustice inflicted upon our people, a nd to ip cys that our people exercise their right of self-determination and freedom as a sovereign state. >> the palestinian president mahmoud abecaubasabbas, and tray only member states can fly their flag, and they have nonmember observer status, but earlier this month, the assembly allowed the palestinians and the vatican for that matter to add their collection of flags flying in new york outside of the united nations. meanwhile, other breaking news. a total lack of american leadership is how the arizona senator john mccain is describing the obama's ed administration's of handing the air strikes to keep bashar al assad in power. he is the leader of the armed services committee, and he gave
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a passioned speech to blame the president's troop withdrawal for taliban gains in afghanistan as well. >> in the last couple of days the taliban capturing the strategic city of kunduz, and that isser the ribble in the respect that kunduz is in the northern part of afghanistan where it was believed was fairly stable. sh showing the ability of the taliban and the effects of our withdrawal. but i come back to syria, and the russian activities today. after four years in syria, the united states has stood by as bashar al assad, and his wa war on the syrian people goes on and on and on, and as this the slaughter, it has been the single greatest contributor to the rise and the continued success of isil, and have no doubt, it was bashar al assad that gave birth to isil. the president has said for
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years, for years that assad must go, but he has done nothing that has brought us any closer to achieving that the outcome. this administration has confused our friends and encouraged the enemies, and mistaken an excessive caution for prudence and replaced the risk of actions with the perils of inaction, and into the wreckage, and into the wreckage of the middle east's policy has stepped vladimir putin as in ukraine and elsewhere, he perceives the ap administration's action as weakness, and he is taking full advantage. over the past few weeks, vladimir putin has been engaged in a significant military buildup in western syria, and d deploying strike aircraft, and by the way, he is deploying aircraft that are air-to-air and not air-to-ground. my friend, isis has no air force. the white house has said it is
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unclear exactly what russia's intentions are. if the white house is confused about russia's plans in syria, then the united states is even in worse trouble than many fear, because it is not hard, it is not hard to discern what vladimir putin wants. in fact, from russia's build up militarily in syria, and the military intelligence with syria, iran and iraq, and remember that iraq is the country where we lost thousands of american lives, and now the iraqi government announces sharing intelligence with syria and iran. amazing. amazing. putin's ambitions are clear, he wants to prop up assad, and play kingmaker, and prop up any operations, and ultimately expand russian power to the middle east to the degree that i
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mentioned unseen since 1973. and this is just coming in, the russian president vladimir putin met with members of his own government to speak out about the air strikes that russia launched inside of syria today. and in putin's own words let me read the you what he said. syria is the issue here, and the only real way to fight international terrorism, and international terrorist groups that are creating chaos in syria, and the territory of neighboring countries is to take the initiative and fight and destroy the terrorists in the territory they have already captured rather than waiting for them to arrive on our soil. and again, i quote, we will support the syrian army only in its lawful fight against terrorist groups. second, our support will be limited to air strikes and will not involve ground operations. and third, our support will have
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a limited time frame and will continue only while the syrian army conducts its anti-terrorist offensive. and now, we are a hearing that some of the democrats are saying basically the same thing that the strategy in syria of president obama is not working. and now, some are asking for a new peaceful strategy of how the deal with what is going nonsyria.
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syria, and all of this happening as some of the democrats inside of the house of representatives are pressing president obama to lead an international effort to end that war in syria, and the appeal is more urgent now that russia has lawnfed the air strikes. a letter signed by some 55 democrats, congressman jim heinz says it is time to go to negotiated peace, and work with the allies, including surrounding arab states and have a vested interest in the security and stability of the region moving forward with both a peace plan and a coordinated assault on isil. and now, can you tell us about what began today with the air strikes? >> well, it is some urgency for the united states to pull some leadership together, and solve this thing. we have seen russia engaging,
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and bringing in weapon, and personnel, and it is that much violence to occur, and that much predictability, because we have all kinds of countries flying in syria, and so, this is one more reason why it is time for everybody to standdown and realize that we have all got a common interest in the outcome that may not be to our likinging, and when russia and iran get a vote, and they do in that region, we may not get the deal that we want, but it is going to hopefully stop the floflow violence, and the flow of migrants. >> and 7 million people internally, and externally, more than 250,000 people have been killed. you say that the situation worsen, and day today, no sign to improve, and you wrote the letter together with your colleagues, democrats, and are you losing confidence in the president, and his ability to do anything about ha what is going on?
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>> well, it is funny, because i was listening to senator mccain earlier, and there is a mistake that people in washington make which is to think that if we can just get the right answer, and do everything right, everything will be fine in the middle east. i have always felt that it is is a daunting realization for me that the evident to arm and train syrian so-called moderates, and you don't have to be a foreign policy yin stirn -- einstein to know that if you are putting in a force the fight both assad and isis, and not only fighting on one side of the middle eastern civil war, which is never a good idea, but fighting on both sides of the civil war. and so i have never had confidence in that and the results are clear in the last couple of weeks suggests that that particular aspect of the policy has not worked, and so, yes, it is time to try something different. >> what do you suggest for the
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president to do in the days and the weeks ahead? >> i want the president to get together with a country that has a stake or influence in the country, and that is going to the include vladimir putin. and people forget that syria was a client state of the soviet union, a nd there is a naval bae there, and so i want them to get together with turkey, and jordan countries rn and yes, iraq, and that is uncomfortable, because it is an appalling regime, but they have influence in the region, and for those folks to get together to phase assad out of power and do two things. describe the post assad syria will look like which is participation of the sunnis and the kurds, and the russians and the -- we all align strategically around eradicating eye circumstances and when we have reached that level of agreement from where we go from here will we be effective
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against isis. >> and the house intelligence committee, russian's intention right now in syria, an they say it is only to have russia strengthen its own influence in the region at the expense of the united states. do you accept that? >> aye. i think that it is probably accurate as far as it goes, but remember that syria has for generations been a soviet and russian client state. assad and his father got the training from the soviet union and from russia. so putin is asserting himself in areas not where he is sort of breaking new ground, but think of crimea, which of course does in fact have a long russian history, and asserting himself in areas to make the case that there is a tradition of russian participation there. the other thing about putin and rus russia, and as much as i respect
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senator mccain, they are a geo problem for us, make no mistake. but the economy is imploding, and the currency has been tanked, and the president is playing dangerous games all over the the world, and so we do have some things in common with russia making sure that iran does not arrive at a knew nuclear weapon, and so we have to remember that part, too. >> thank you, congressman jim h himes, a member of the intelligence committee. and coming up we will have a briefing from the pentagon about whether or not russia was striking isil or somebody else. our experts are standing by.
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earlier this hour we heard from the white house press secretary with reaction to the air strikes that happened
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earlier today and coming up at the top of the hour, we expect to hear from the pentagon ash carter who is scheduled for the briefing momentarily, and standby, because cnn will have live coverage. in the meantime, let's talk about the breaking news, the start of the air strikes inside of syria, and what we will hear from the pentagon, and our international bureau chief christiane amanpour, and also retired general mark hertling is joining us from orlando, and what are you hearing about the russian strikes from inside of syria? >> well, wolf, as you can see it is raining here, and some would say it is raining russian missiles, but on the wrong target targets. we are hearing from the french, and soon i will be interviewing the foreign minister that they got no warning whatsoever before the russian strike, and that senior american officials plus syrian opposition, and plus others are saying that so far,
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what they know is that the russian air strikes so far have not hit eye is sis, but they have hit others, according to the opposition anti-assad reb s rebels, and system of them of course are those trained by the united states. so there is also policy going on inside of this chamber, which many are questioning right now. they are saying that the united states is conceding to the day facto facts on the ground, and military hardware and its own politics, and intelligence operation, and it is taking the lead for now entirely to bolster the assad regime. the head of the nato's forces, t the american general philip breedlove has said that all of the hardware that russia has taken in does not comfort to what is required to target isis, and they don't believe it is rush is -- russia's main aim. w wolf? >> and general hertling, we are
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told that to a russian attache goes up to the embassy in baghdad saying that you should not have any planes in the area, because russia is about to start the air strike, and that could cause a problem. so what does the u.s. do in this situation? >> well, it is what they did, wolf, they continue to fly aircraft in northern syria, and this is not something to bother the u.s. military, and especially the u.s. air force. they will continue the fight in the north, and also, i would say this is not deconfliction as promised by president obama or president putin, and this is from a general in the u.s. embassy, and this is contrary to the way that all military coordination and deacon flexion is carried d -- deconfliction is carried out. so it is an awkward state of affa affairs. >> and christiane, all of this follows the news that president obama met with president putin,
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and secretary kerry has been meeting with foreign mip ster lav rov and a -- minister lavrov and it is a surprise. >> yes, they saw the buildup, and then they started to get clearup when they saw the military hardware and personnel moving in, and also, they were taken totally by surprise, and we don't know how effective it is going to be but totally by surprise with the russian announcement of the intelligence-gathering coalition of teheran, and damascus, and baghdad and that basically cuts out the taking the lead and the united states is having to follow russia's lead right now. they assume that russia won't be able to tolerate any kind of quagmire or getting bogged down. but at the moment russia's aim
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is to bolster assad and according to the united states, thexd drone surveillance missio are not over isis positions but are over the anti-assad rebels including some of those the united states has tried to equip and train. so this is a pretty bleak state of affairs right now. >> and we're standing by, christiane. general hertling, to hear from the defense secretary of the united states, ash carter. you see that live picture coming up. that's it for me. our special coverage of this pentagon briefing, the breaking news on the russian air strikes in syria, all of this will continue right after a quick break. you pay your car insurance
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>> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. breaking news here on cnn. i'm brooke baldwin. i want to welcome our viewers here in the united states and all around the world. the breaking news is this. any minute now the u.s.
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secretary of defense ash carter will be speaking from the pentagon, live pictures from the upper right corner of your screen as the world is watching what he could say in the wake of these dramatic torn of events in this u.s.-led war on isis. russia claiming it is going after the terror group inside of syria unleashing its very first round of air strikes in and around the city of homs, but all is not as it seems. a u.s. official telling cnn these bombs being dropped by russian war planes are not intended for isis at all but instead could be be targeting rebel fighters. enemies of syrian president bashar al assad, a very close ally of president vladimir putin of russia and a man known to the united states for barrel-bombing his own citizens, something that president obama brought up to the u.n. general assembly days ago. russia even admitting these strikes were ordered by


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