Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the Defense Department is monitoring developments in northern Syria, where news reports have emerged that al Qaeda affiliated fighters have driven rebels with the Western-aligned Syrian Revolutionary Front from the province of Idlib over the weekend. However, Kirby said he did not have any operational reporting to confirm al Qaeda-aligned rebels had gained US-made equipment in northern Syria, although he noted the territory has swapped hands between the groups several times during the conflict. “I don’t believe we view current events as a major setback,” Kirby said, adding the tensions between the rebel groups is one of the reasons the Pentagon wants to get its train and equip program up and running. The curriculum and training sites are being prepared and instructors are lined up, but the vetting process of potential fighters is still being codified, Kirby said. Though the initial US and coalition strikes against ISIS and its allies in Syria struck targets in Western Syria, most have since focused on areas to the east and around the border town of Kobani. (Kirby transcript.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.