Russian jets mistakenly bomb Pentagon-backed forces in Syria, US general claims
- Author: Rogelio Becker Mar 04, 2017,
Mar 04, 2017, 0:26
A Russian airstrike in northern Syria hit USA -backed Syrian Arab forces who are part of the fight against the Islamic State group, a senior US general said Wednesday.
It was a situation that USA commanders have been trying to avoid since Russian Federation deployed dozens of aircraft to Syria in late 2015.
"We have a specific campaign to hunt them and kill them", Townsend said in a video call from Baghdad.
At the same time, Russian and Syrian forces are coming within increasing proximity to USA -backed troops.
Townsend said he expects the Kurds to take part in the Raqa offensive "in one form or fashion". "The rest of them will fight as ordered or fight to the death". "As the regime and [Turkish forces] advanced on those villages, the [Islamic State group] fighters withdrew and the Syrian Arab Coalition fighters advanced into those villages". "Yet, on the ground were some of our Syrian Arab Coalition [an SDF faction]", General Townsend said.
There are a number of different fighters in northern Syria, including Syrian government forces, Turkish-backed Syrian fighters and Kurdish fighters. The incident, which took place in a town just outside of Raqqa, which has become the Islamic extremist group's de facto capital in Syria, resulted in casualties among members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, but Townsend declined to comment on how many were injured or if there were any deaths.
US forces, who were a couple of miles away to assist the Syrian fighters, called in the information and the Russians halted the airstrikes, Townsend said.
Turkey is strongly opposed to YPG militia involvement in the operation to liberate Raqqa, not only because it sees the force as an extension of the PKK militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, but also because it says Raqqa is an Arab-dominated city.
"Not a single air strike on the regions specified by the United States side was conducted by Russian or Syrian air forces", the statement added. "Not every day on the ground, but daily in the air there's a deconfliction arrangement with the Russians".
Others have said the Trump administration might seek to accelerate the assault on Raqqa by putting additional US trainers and advisers into Syria and possibly sending small numbers of conventional forces to operate long-range artillery. "They're Syrians, that's who's going to go liberate Raqqa".