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US-Russian deal in Syria

The U.S. military will have to shift surveillance aircraft from other regions and increase the number of intelligence analysts to coordinate attacks with Russia under the Syria cease-fire deal partly in order to target militants the U.S. has largely spared, senior officials say.

Senior defense and military officials told The Associated Press that they are sorting out how the U.S.-Russia military partnership will take shape and how that will change where U.S. equipment and people will be deployed. They said, however, that they will need to take assets from other parts of the world, because U.S. military leaders don’t want to erode the current U.S.-led coalition campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

More military planners and targeting experts will be needed to identify and approve airstrikes against the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. The U.S. has rarely bombed the group, previously known as the Nusra Front, and the targeting is trickier because the militants are often intermingled with other U.S.-backed Syrian rebels.

Making matters more complicated are U.S. military concerns about Russian targeting. Unlike the U.S., which uses precision-guided munitions, Moscow has predominantly used so-called dumb bombs in its airstrikes over Syria.

The Syria cease-fire deal struck by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is designed to bring a pause to the civil war so that the superpowers’ militaries can be jointly concentrated against the Islamic extremist groups operating within the chaos on the ground. The concerns reflect the U.S. military’s broader skepticism about partnering with Russia, which it says it distrusts.

Senior U.S. defense and military officials familiar with the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about the matter publicly.

Under the deal, if the cease-fire holds for seven days and humanitarian deliveries are allowed into areas besieged by the Syrian army, the U.S. and Russia would set up a so-called Joint Implementation Center to focus on the militants and share basic targeting data.

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