US bolsters military presence in northeast Syria
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on Friday that it was increasing its forces in northeast Syria to better protect Coalition troops there and enable them to continue their activities to defeat ISIS.
The new US measures appear intended, above all, as a deterrent to Russian threats to Coalition forces following an incident last month, in which a Russian military convoy deliberately rammed a US convoy, injuring 7 US soldiers.
The new measures include the return of Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which were last dispatched to Syria in October 2019, but which left the area after a month.
The US has also “increased the frequency of US fighter patrols over US forces,” CENTCOM spokesman, Capt. Bill Urban, explained on Friday.
The US has also deployed Sentinel radar to the area. Sentinel radar is used with Short Range Air Defense weapons to target aircraft and drones.
In addition, the US has beefed up its naval presence in the Gulf, as a tweet from the US Navy’s 5th Fleet announced on Friday.
Threats to Coalition Forces from Russia and Syria
The Russian ramming of a US convoy on August 25 followed a little more than a week after another incident. On August 17, US troops, along with their principle partner in the fight against ISIS in Syria, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), “came under small arms fire after passing through a checkpoint near Tal al-Zahab, Syria,” NBC News reported.
Speaking of the August 25 incident, CENTCOM Commander, Gen. Frank McKenzie, told NBC that the Russian action “got us into a dangerous situation where a Russian ground patrol actually came into the eastern Syria security area they were not authorized to be in.”
In early 2018, US and SDF forces were threatened by hundreds of heavily-armed Russian contractors from the Wagner Group, “a paramilitary organization with murky and unconfirmed ties with the Kremlin,” as The New York Times described it.
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However, the official Russian military sought to obscure Russia’s covert role. “Russian officers maintained continuous communication with US military officials through the deconfliction hotline,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said then in order to “obfuscate Russia’s direct role in the incident.” Moscow “both supported the attack and simultaneously gave the impression of genuine efforts to prevent the attack in order to confuse senior US decision-makers,” ISW concluded.
The US dispatched attack aircraft to confront that threat, killing hundreds of Russians who were fighting as employees of the Wagner Group.
US Forces in Syria and Iraq
About 100 US troops have been sent to Syria, along with six Bradley vehicles. Based at Ft. Bliss, Texas, they had been deployed to Kuwait, with which the US has maintained close military ties since its liberation from Iraqi occupation in February 1991. The new troops will remain in Syria for 90 days.
“These actions and reinforcements are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual deconfliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional, unsafe, and provocative actions in northeast Syria,” a US official told NBC.
Some 500 US troops were in Syria before the new deployment. In Iraq, there are some 5,200 troops, and it is planned to reduce their number to around 3,000 by the end of the month.
Editing by John J. Catherine