The US military is seeking to fly drones over Syria to gather intelligence information about the Islamic State militant group, laying the groundwork for a possible expansion of its limited air campaign beyond Iraq, according to a media report.
The Pentagon is preparing to send surveillance aircraft, including drones, into Syrian airspace to gather intelligence on Islamic State targets, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed US officials.
While the White House insisted that President Barack Obama has not made any decision yet, The New York Times said that Obama has allowed flying surveillance drones over Syria. The flights would be a precursor to broader airstrikes against ISIS militants, which are already taking place in Iraq, the daily said.
“The Pentagon is preparing to conduct reconnaissance flights over Syria. There is no decision yet to do strikes, but in order to help make that decision, you want to get as much situational awareness as possible,” a US official said.
The White House refused to comment on the story. “We’re not going to comment on intelligence or operational issues. As we’ve been saying, we’ll use all the tools at our disposal when it comes to the protection of our people,” National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the drones would enter Syrian airspace without any Syrian regime approval or authorization. The operation would be conducted by the US Central Command.
Obama on Monday met his Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The details of the meeting were not available. But before the meeting, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Iraq and Syria was expected to be key topics of discussion during their routine weekly meeting at the White House.
“We have to be ready. We are always leaning forward. If there is going to be a shift in policy, developing an accurate picture is the first thing we need,” a defense official was quoted as saying by the daily.