Russian airstrikes boost Islamic State in Syria, says US envoy

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Russian airstrikes boost Islamic State in Syria, says US envoy
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: Smoke rises after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas in Tal Rifaat District of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Ahmed Muhammed Ali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, shelter at vehicles and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: A Syrian girl who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, walks as they shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: A Syrian girl push a wheelchair, carrying an amputee boy as they shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, after flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians, flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces wait in a queue to receive food, distributed by a Turkish NGO IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, as they shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, shelter at tents and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, shelter at vehicles and try to live their lives with humanitarian aid send by Turkey, UNHCR and other Turkish Humanitarian aid organizations, close to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: Smoke rises after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas in Tal Rifaat District of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Ahmed Muhammed Ali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: A Russian warcraft is seen flying over the sky after hitting residential areas in Tal Rifaat District of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Ahmed Muhammed Ali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09 : Civilians and rescue workers inspect collapsed buildings after Russian Forces' airstrike over opposition controlled residential areas in Idlib's Talmanes Town, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Mohamad Karkas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces to residential areas on Hayan, Haritan, Kafr, Anadan, Kafr Naya, Mayir and Ihris districts of Syria, try to live at tents and open areas at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces to residential areas on Hayan, Haritan, Kafr, Anadan, Kafr Naya, Mayir and Ihris districts of Syria, try to live at tents and open areas at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces to residential areas on Hayan, Haritan, Kafr, Anadan, Kafr Naya, Mayir and Ihris districts of Syria, try to live at tents and open areas at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 10: A Syrian child, who fled bombing in Aleppo, is seen at a tent city close to the Bab al-Salam border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 10, 2016. Russian airstrikes have recently forced some 40,000 people to flee their homes in Syrias northern city of Aleppo. (Photo by Kerem Kocalar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces to residential areas on Hayan, Haritan, Kafr, Anadan, Kafr Naya, Mayir and Ihris districts of Syria, try to live at tents and open areas at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 9: Syrians who flee the attacks of Assad Regime and Russian air forces, try to live inside wrecked vehicle as they barely covered them with blankets and tarpaulins, at a refugee camp at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 8 : Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces, warm around the fire as they shelter at tents and try to hold on to life, at a refugee camp at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 08, 2016. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 08: A wounded kid is being hospitalized after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas at opposition controlled Saleheen neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 08, 2016. Several residents killed and wounded after airstrikes, reported. (Photo by Beha El-Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 08: A wounded kid is being hospitalized after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas at opposition controlled Saleheen neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 08, 2016. Several residents killed and wounded after airstrikes, reported. (Photo by Beha El-Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 08: Heavily damaged buildings and vehicles are seen after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas at opposition controlled Saleheen neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 08, 2016. Several residents killed and wounded after airstrikes, reported. (Photo by Beha El-Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 8: People walk past the rubbles as Russian airstrikes pound residential areas at opposition controlled Salihin neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 8, 2016. (Photo by Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. envoy to the coalition against Islamic State said on Wednesday that Russian airstrikes in Syria are boosting the militant group because of the toll they are taking on U.S.-backed opposition fighters.

"What Russia's doing is directly enabling ISIL," the envoy, Brett McGurk, told a hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, using an acronym for Islamic State.

He left the hearing for a flight to Germany, where world powers are meeting on Thursday to try to revive the first effort in two years to negotiate an end to the war in Syria after it faltered last week.

Rebel groups have been urging U.S. President Barack Obama to do more to stop Russian bombing raids that have left them on the verge of collapse ahead of the talks.

McGurk said Washington is committed to securing a ceasefire, but needs to consider options in case the diplomatic push falls short.

Under questioning from House members frustrated over the sputtering anti-Islamic State campaign, McGurk said the United States and its allies were making progress against the group, but face major challenges. "Our progress will not always be linear, and we should expect setbacks and surprises," McGurk said.

Committee members said they wanted Washington to do more.

"These gains have been too slow to come and too limited," U.S. Representative Ed Royce, the panel's Republican chairman, said.

McGurk also acknowledged Islamic State's growing influence outside of Iraq and Syria.

He said its branch in Libya is the greatest cause for concern, given its attacks in the chaotic North African country and the threat it poses to U.S. partners such as Tunisia and Egypt.

He did not rule out U.S. aid airdrops to help ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria. "We're looking at all options on the humanitarian side," McGurk said. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Bill Rigby)


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