KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.<br />
While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.<br />
One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.<br />
Two U.S. officials said Monday that Obama had approved the flights, while another U.S. official said early Tuesday that they had begun. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name, and spoke only on condition of anonymity.<br />
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday that the U.S. wants more clarity on the militants in Syria, but declined to comment on the surveillance flights.<br />
"Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture," said Dempsey, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group. "The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side, we have ... some insights into that but we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward."<br />
Meanwhile, Syria said Monday it was ready to help confront the rising threat from the Islamic State group, but warned the United States against carrying out airstrikes without Damascus' consent, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression. (See earlier story. Link below.)
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