US General: Russia And Syria Accidentally Bombed US-Backed Fighters In Syria
- Author: Jon Douglas Mar 04, 2017,
Mar 04, 2017, 0:24
The two countries were seemingly on opposing sides of the Syrian Civil War, with the Kremlin hoping that Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power and the USA viewing his removal as essential towards achieving peace in the conflict that has killed an estimated 400,000 people since starting in March 2011.
The Russians likely believed they were hitting Islamic State targets and ceased the strikes on Tuesday once they were notified by US forces, Townsend told reporters during a video press briefing.
The latest near miss occurred near the city of al Bab, just northeast of Aleppo, which Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies recently took from ISIS, leaving them in a staredown with Syrian regime forces who site just south of the city.
USA troops operating less than five kilometres from the villages observed the bombing and communicated the error, which was then passed to the Russians through a "deconfliction" hotline the two powers have established to avoid mishaps.
"The ISIS fighters withdrew, and the Syrian Arab Coalition fighters advanced into those villages", Townsend said, noting that different groups are operating in the area in close enough proximity to attack one another with a hand grenade.
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition forces against ISIS, accused Russian Federation of bombing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) resulting in "some casualties". American advisory forces were fewer than five miles away, but were unharmed.
The incident on Tuesday marked the second time in a month that Russian aircraft mistakenly attacked friendly forces.
During Islamic State's first occupation which ended in March previous year, the ultra-hardline jihadist group destroyed some of Palmyra's priceless archaeological heritage.
The general sought to tamp down tensions, saying that "the coalition is encouraged" by the progress against ISIS by the Turkish military and their proxies.
"I don't foresee us bringing in large numbers of coalition troops, mainly because what we're doing is, in fact, working", Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing, speaking via video conference from Baghdad. "The rest of them will fight as ordered or fight to the death". Russia's Vladimir Putin apologized to Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after three soldiers were killed. The SAC is the Arab component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a cohort of rebel groups that the United States backs. Both leaders have said that they support arming the Kurds for the fight. "This would be a major setback for the enemy", Townsend said. They had seen ISIS move out of the area in advance of the regime and the Turks' advance.
Townsend declined to openly discuss his recommendations for accelerating the fight against Islamic State, but his comments represent one of the strongest signals yet that the USA military will not advocate any fundamental shift in a key strategy that relies on local ground forces.
Coalition efforts by, with and through partners in Iraq and Syria have made significant progress, the general said. "They're Syrians, that's who's going to go liberate Raqqa".