Hayat Tahrir
© Reuters / Khalil Ashawi
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters pose near Idlib in 2018
The many terrorist groups who call Idlib province home are a "menace and a threat" to the civilians living there, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Col. Myles Caggins told SkyNews, spoiling their 'evil Assad' narrative.

SkyNews interviewed Caggins to accompany a story it posted suggesting Syrian government and Russian forces were "indiscriminately" attacking civilians and "bombing hospitals," but the US colonel went rogue and focused on the terrorists those forces are actually fighting instead.

"Idlib province seems to be a magnet for terrorist groups, especially because it is an ungoverned space in many ways," the public face of the US military operation to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) told the UK outlet. "There are variety of groups there — all of them are a nuisance, a menace and a threat to...hundreds of thousands of civilians who are just trying to make it through the winter."


Sky soldiered on with their narrative anyway, lamenting the fate of the "displaced populations...caught in the crossfire" between the Syrian Arab Army and the motley crew of "jihadists...some allied to al Qaeda." Citing the notoriously anti-Assad Syrian Network for Human Rights, which has made a name for itself providing horrific casualty figures to credulous western media organizations, Sky claimed Russian airstrikes were decimating the province's hospitals. The Russian Ministry of Defense has addressed this narrative before — pointing out that several of the so-called "hospitals" whose fate was lamented in media reports were actually military storehouses and bunkers — but no mention was made of those revelations.

Western media have clung to the "evil Assad and evil Russia attacking helpless civilians" line on Idlib ever since the Syrian Arab Army reached the terrorist stronghold months ago, playing down the ties of the so-called "moderate rebels" to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and spinning tear-jerking tales of civilians persecuted only by the Assad government. Meanwhile, the Syrian government has accused militant groups of using civilians as human shields to stave off the province's liberation.

More than a few people took notice of Caggins' divergence from the narrative on social media, scolding him for going off script. Why, they asked, wasn't he blaming Russia and Assad?



Others were concerned that his deviation from the usual US line represented some kind of policy shift — was Washington telling "moderate rebels" they were on their own?

Syrian and Russian forces have made great strides in reclaiming Idlib from the militant groups, many affiliated with al-Qaeda, that have mounted a last stand in the province. Once in control of large swathes of territory (and backed with US funding and weaponry), their influence has shrunk to this final holdout. Other militant groups are backed by Turkey, which recently threatened to push back against the Syrian advance in earnest should Assad's forces make a concerted effort to rid the area of its jihadist occupants. While Turkey and Russia had initially formed an agreement to deescalate hostilities in the area, Turkey has been accused of failing to hold up its end of the bargain by clearing out the terrorists.

Meanwhile, those areas liberated from the "moderate" terrorists have been rebuilding as residents return, with Aleppo International Airport landing its first flight this week — a powerful symbol of the resilience of the nation nearly brought to its knees by a decade of war. But SkyNews is unlikely to report on that — when last they checked in, Aleppo was set to be "massacred" by Assad's troops.