US General Says Russia Inadvertently Bombed US-Backed Syrian Fighters
Mar 04 2017
Townsend said Russian and Syrian aircraft bombed positions held by the us -backed Syrian Arab Coalition near the Syrian town of al-Bab on Tuesday, inflicting casualties.
Russian Federation deployed aircrafts to Syria in late 2015 to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS, while USA troops support the Syrian opposition forces, and the two sides set up a communication channel to avoid getting into each other's air space. "Everybody should keep their sights focused on ISIS and that's what we ought to keep our efforts focused on and not fighting deliberately or accidentally with one another", Townsend said. Islamic State fighters had been in the area but had left to get away from advancing forces, including rebels backed by Turkey. This is something that goes on daily in the air. 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. But IS fighters had left the village before the bombing and members of what the US calls the Syrian Arab Coalition had moved in.
A US-led coalition has since late summer 2014 been bombing IS in Iraq and Syria while at the same time supporting local forces doing the fighting on the ground.
Townsend, who commands US forces in Iraq and Syria, said these groups are "bumping up against each other" around the city, adding "three armies and an enemy force have all converged within the same grid square, so it's very hard and complicated" to know just who is where.
There are a number of different fighters in northern Syria, including Syrian government forces, Turkish-backed Syrian fighters and Kurdish fighters. While smaller than Mosul, Raqqa presents similar challenges for its liberating force - a city full of civilians alongside thousands of trained fighters who have had more than two years to prepare defenses. The U.S. has provided some air support for the Turkish forces when they have attacked ISIS positions, but have not participated in any of their clashes with the SDF. "Not every day on the ground, but daily in the air there's a deconfliction arrangement with the Russians".
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.
"They're Syrians. That's who is going to Raqqa", Townsend said.