President Obama has approved using American air power to defend U.S-backed rebels in Syria from attacks by President Bashar al-Assad's forces or Islamist groups, increasing the chances of direct conflict between Washington and Damascus.
Under new rules of engagement proposed by the Pentagon and approved by the White House last week, forces trained and equipped by the Pentagon would receive cover from U.S. aircraft. Only about 60 rebels have graduated from the U.S-led training program. The new rules were first reported Sunday by the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon has downplayed the possibility of conflict between U.S. aircraft and Syrian government forces, saying that the Pentagon-backed fighters were committed to fighting the Islamic State terror group (ISIS), not the Assad regime.