US strikes pro-govt forces in Syria, shoots down drone
“U.S. conducted strikes against two technical vehicles that we were assessed to be posing a threat to Coalition forces at At-Tanf garrison,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon tweeted.
“Today was the third set of kinetic strikes the U.S. conducted in response to threats posed to Coalition forces operating out of At Tanf. The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces. However, we remain ready to defend ourselves against any threat,” said Dillon, deploying the same language that was used to explain the strikes on May 18 and June 6.
Despite broad similarities with previous incidents, there were key differences. Dillon said that a US patrol went outside the 55km deconfliction zone, when it was fired on by a drone belonging to pro-government forces analogous to the US MQ-1, which it then destroyed.
Syria does not recognize US deconfliction zones inside its sovereign territory. While the US previously said that Russia approved a safe zone outside At Tanf, where American forces are training anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militias, this week Moscow said that “unilaterally-declared” deconfliction zones are “illegitimate.”
Dillon said that the second strike earlier on Thursday was against a weapons-laden pickup truck near the training base, where several hundred US personnel are stationed. Its allegiance was not specified and no casualties were sustained by coalition forces in either incident.
Earlier this week, the coalition began a full-scale assault on Raqqa, the Islamic State “capital”, located to the north of At Tanf, which is likely to take months. Despite rising diplomatic tension, US troops are unlikely to leave at least until its fall.
“Coalition forces have been located at At Tanf for more than a year. The garrison is a temporary Coalition location to train vetted forces to defeat ISIS and will not be vacated until ISIS is defeated,” said a statement from the US Central Command.
The establishment of the so-called “deconfliction zone” in At Tanf is an attempt by the US to regain influence in Syria and the whole of the Middle East, security analyst Charles Shoebridge told RT.
Washington “lost ground in the region” due to the Russian and Iranian policies which saw the Syrian “war turning against the rebels, especially, the ones of the more extreme nature that were in one way or another supported by some in the West,” he said.
“This third attack in three weeks will bolster the impression – that many had for some time – that the true aim of the American and British special forces there (At Tanf)… is to train those rebels as proxies to, actually, extend or rather recover lost American influence in this very crucial from the strategic perspective location,” Shoebridge explained.
Those new militant groups “are now being trained; and armed; and funded; and assisted by the Americans; and indeed given air support,” he added.
As President Trump “seems to be directing most of the American policy in the region against Iran,” it’s likely that the Americans are now acting in Syria with Tehran in mind, the analyst said.
US claims that their attacks on the pro-government forces were in self-defense cannot be justified, Jan Oberg, director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, told RT.
“I’d say who is offensive in this? The Americans are in Syria without anybody having invited them to be there and they seem to be both fighting ISIS (Islamic State) and through allies supporting ISIS,” he said.
Oberg pointed out that it’s Syria, which has the right to self-defense under the UN Charter, warning, the “Americans in Syria, they should expect to be shot at.”