For the Second Time, Russian Jets Nearly Bomb US Forces in Syria

04 March, 2017, 00:25 | Author: Ora Austin
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Russian and Syrian regime forces mistakenly bombed United States-backed fighters in Syria Tuesday near the city of al-Bab, the top USA military commander overseeing anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria said Wednesday.

"Yesterday, we had some Russian aircraft and (Syrian) regime aircraft bomb some villages that I believe they thought were held by ISIS, yet they were actually - on the ground - were some of our Syrian Arab coalition forces", Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing, using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

Townshend said us military advisers were about four kilometers from the February 28 air strike and used "deconfliction channels" set up for communication between Russia and the United States to warn the Russian pilots off.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

Townsend also downplayed the chances that the United States would deploy a large number of additional coalition forces to battle Islamic State, even as President Donald Trump weighs options to speed the campaign.

Townsend said he submitted several recommendations for adjustments that could accelerate the fight, but he declined to discuss them Wednesday.

This photo provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows Russian air force Tu-22M3 bombers strike the Islamic State group wldtargets in Syria on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. They have liberated some 2,300 square miles around the city as they work to isolate it.

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ISIS has been dealt another significant blow in Syria, where Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated Bab, the last significant ISIS-controlled population center in the Aleppo district, Townsend said, noting that freeing Bab closed the door to ISIS' supply line of new fighters and its ability to export terrorists around the world. Both leaders have said that they support arming the Kurds for the fight.

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 US military will not advocate any fundamental shift in a key strategy that relies on local ground forces. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group for its perceived links to the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group considered terrorists by Turkey and the United States.

"As we continue to squeeze ISIS and continue to take more territory away from them, it becomes more complex", Gen. Herbert Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, said recently.

Townsend acknowledged casualties but did not provide numbers.

Coalition efforts by, with and through partners in Iraq and Syria have made significant progress, the general said.

"They're Syrians. That's who is going to Raqqa", Townsend said.

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