Russian MoD confirms US multiple rocket launchers in Syria, fears may target govt troops
The US has moved HIMARS long-range rocket launchers from Jordan to its base in At Tanf in Syria, Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed, adding that the hardware could be used against Syrian government forces.
The Russian military stated that the combat range of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) “can’t support the US-controlled units of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa.”
“At the same time, the forces of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition have on several occasions hit Syrian government troops who are fighting against Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] near the Jordanian border. Therefore, it’s not hard to imagine that such strikes on the Syrian military may be continued in the future, but this time with the use of HIMARS,” the statement added.
The Defense Ministry said that “the deployment of any type of foreign weaponry on Syrian territory, especially such as multiple rocket launchers, must be agreed upon with the government of the sovereign country [Syria].”
Moscow is closely monitoring the situation on the border between Syria and Jordan, the statement added.
On Wednesday, a senior intelligence source told Reuters that the US military has moved its new truck-mounted HIMARS rocket launcher system from Jordan to At Tanf.
“They have arrived now in Tanf and they are a significant boost to the US military presence there,” the source said, while noting that the HIMARS has been stationed near US-backed militias in northern Syria before, according to the news agency.
Lockheed Martin’s HIMARS system, which is capable of launching various types of munitions, has an operational range of 480 kilometers.
US air forces have struck pro-government forces in Syria on three occasions in the last couple of weeks, saying that it was a “response to threats posed to coalition forces operating out of At Tanf.” The moves drew serious condemnation from the Syrian government.
Russia’s Defense Ministry earlier accused the air forces of the US-led coalition of working to undermine the anti-terrorist efforts of the Syrian government.
“Despite promoting the aim of fighting international terrorism, the coalition is striking the Syrian military, allowing IS militants to leave encircled areas unhindered, thus strengthening the terrorist groupings near Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor,” Colonel General Sergey Surovikin of the Russian ground forces said.
A temporary US base was established at At Tanf over a year ago to train vetted forces to take on Islamic State.
The US recently unilaterally declared a so-called “deconfliction zone” in the area, which wasn’t approved by the Syrian government.