New commercial satellite imagery shows in remarkable detail Russia's escalating military buildup in Syria.
Images taken by Europe's Pleiades satellite network and released by AllSource Analysis in collaboration with GeoNorth and Airbus clearly show four big Su-30SM Flanker-C and 12 smaller Su-25 Frogfoot fighter jets parked Sept. 20 at the al-Assad International Airport in Syria.
The Russian arsenal in Syria has grown over the past few days to include 28 ground-attack and multi-role fighters, including Su-24 Fencers, according to the Pentagon.
Russia has also deployed to the country 14 helicopters, including the Mi-24 Hind gunship and the Mi-17 Hip transport, a number of SA-22 surface-to-air missile systems, and large fixed-wing surveillance drones, according to multiple news organizations, including The Washington Post and Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, as my colleague Richard Sisk reported, the Russian embassy in Damascus was mortared on Tuesday and the U.S. remains leery of any buildup that seeks to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"We continue to believe that anything that's done in support of the Assad regime, particularly militarily, is counterproductive and risks worsening an already bad situation," spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters at the Pentagon.
His counterpart at the State Department, John Kirby, agreed. "If there's a constructive role they (the Russians) want to play against ISIL, we’re willing to have that conversation," he said, referring to militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which the U.S. is targeting with airstrikes. However, if the Russian intent is to "prop up Assad, that's a whole different matter," Kirby said.
Republican lawmakers last week blasted the administration's strategy in the Middle East.
The $500 million effort begun last December to train and equip Syrian rebels in the campaign against ISIS has thus far only produced a handful of fighters actually on the ground in Syria, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, recently testified before Congress.