BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad said in remarks published Wednesday that U.S.-led airstrikes targeting Islamic State group militants in his country are neither serious nor efficient, claiming they have failed to produce any tangible results.
He also accused Turkey of continuing to provide direct support to the militants.
Assad spoke in a rare interview conducted Nov. 28 in Damascus with Paris Match magazine, his first in months. His comments critical of the U.S. airstrikes appear intended to give the impression that his forces are the most effective in fighting Islamic extremists.
"You can't end terrorism with aerial strikes. Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential," the magazine quoted Assad as saying. "That is why there haven't been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition."
The full interview was expected to be published Thursday.
Both Assad's forces and the U.S. have been bombing Islamic State group targets in northern Syria, although U.S. officials say they don't coordinate strikes with his embattled government.
Assad said the U.S. strikes "would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient."
"We are running the ground battles against Daesh, and we have noticed no change, especially with Turkey providing direct support to these regions," he was quoted as saying, using an Arabic acronym for the group.
Assad has insisted throughout Syria's nearly 4-year-old conflict that he has been fighting foreign-inspired Islamic extremists and "terrorists" — not Syrians calling for reform and freedom. Activists say more than 200,000 people have been killed since March 2011.
Asked by the magazine about whether he was afraid of suffering the same demise as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Assad reportedly replied: "The captain doesn't think about death, or life, he thinks about saving his ship. If he thinks about sinking, everyone will die."