General says Russian Federation almost bombed United States forces in Syria in ISIS fight

Posted March 04, 2017

The jumbled mess of competing forces in and around al Bab has increased the likelihood of mistakes or miscalculations.

The airstrikes resulted in some casualties among the Syrian Arab force, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of coalition forces supporting Iraqi and Syrian forces battling the Islamic State.

Russian Federation denied responsibility, saying in a written statement that it had adhered to US guidance on avoiding friendly forces in that area.

For the second time in the past year, Russian fighter jets almost hit US forces in northern Syria on Tuesday when they attacked positions held by Syrian Democratic Forces, a top USA commander in Iraq and Syria said Wednesday.

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Townsend signaled Wednesday that the assault on Raqqa is likely to be led by Syrian Democratic Forces, but he said negotiations on the composition of that force are ongoing. 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. "The ISIS fighters withdrew, and the Syrian Arab Coalition fighters advanced into those villages", the general explained. But senior USA officials have not cooperated directly with the Russians, in part because of legislation first passed in 2014 that forbids that kind of engagement because of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. 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.

To avoid mishaps in the air the US and Russian militaries are notifying each side about where they are operating, but they are not coordinating by sharing intelligence and targeting information.

"Not a single air strike on the regions specified by the U.S. side was conducted by Russian or Syrian air forces", the statement said. He also said that Turkey's forces are moving toward the Euphrates River, where the SDF is based.

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The US military only provides periodic updates on estimates of IS fighters but in 2015 and 2016, the Pentagon put the number at between 20,000 and 30,000 in the two countries. Both leaders have said that they support arming the Kurds for the fight. This is something that goes on daily in the air. "Not every day on the ground, but daily in the air there's a deconfliction arrangement with the Russians".

An analysis from the Institute for the Study of War Wednesday said if the Turks moved on Manbij, it would "derail the US -backed campaign against ISIS and create opportunities for al Qaeda to expand further in Syria".

Russian and Syrian forces "accidentally" bombed US -backed fighters in Syria on Tuesday, killing some Syrian rebels, a top USA general said Wednesday.

The coalition continues planning for the eventual liberation of Raqqa, ISIL's self-proclaimed capital, Townsend told reporters.

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