Published: Sat, March 04, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Russia, Syria Mistakenly Bomb US-backed Syrian Fighters

Russia, Syria Mistakenly Bomb US-backed Syrian Fighters

It's unclear whether President Donald Trump will seek military coordination with Russia in Syria; his predecessor deemed it inappropriate, arguing that the Russians were at cross purposes with the U.S.by acting to prop up the Syrian government.

The Russians apparently had observed Islamic State fighters moving from the area and wrongly assumed that other forces remaining were militants. "Yet, they were actually - on the ground were some of our Syrian Arab Coalition forces".

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition forces against ISIS, accused Russian Federation of bombing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) resulting in "some casualties". He said the USA leaves it to partnered forces to report on casualties they may suffer.

The Syrian army said on Thursday it had recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State for the second time in a year, with help from allied forces and Russian warplanes.

"Some quick calls were made through our deconfliction channels and the Russians acknowledged and stopped bombing there", Townsend said.

"To prevent any such incidents, a US representative gave precise coordinates of the USA -backed opposition forces in that area to a Russian military officer", the statement said. "The ISIS fighters withdrew, and the Syrian Arab Coalition fighters advanced into those villages", the general explained. The SAC is the Arab component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a cohort of rebel groups that the United States backs.

The two countries were seemingly on opposing sides of the Syrian Civil War, with the Kremlin hoping that Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power and the US viewing his removal as essential towards achieving peace in the conflict that has killed an estimated 400,000 people since starting in March 2011.

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"They continually reassure us that they have no desire to attack Turkey - that they are not a threat to Turkey", the general said.

Complicating matters are the closer ties Ankara has forged with Moscow in recent months, after a frigid period in the wake of the shooting down of a Russian jet in late 2015 by Turkish F-16s.

Townsend confirmed that the Syrian Arab Coalition forces suffered casualties in the bombings.

"Now, they've begun breaching into the outskirts of the city, with the Iraqi counterterrorism service, federal police and army moving along three axes of advance that clear the enemy from neighborhoods inside the city, but also enveloping the city to the west", the general said, adding that presenting multiple dilemmas to the enemy proved to be effective. Both leaders have said that they support arming the Kurds for the fight. While the 50,000-strong force faces "the problem of supply, the problem of training, and problems of positioning the force", those things can be worked out fairly rapidly, "if we get the authorities we need" from Washington, he said.

Russia's military involvement is a further complication, from the USA point of view.

The U.S. forces were four or five kilometers away from the area where the airstrikes took place, the top commander said. "They're Syrians, that's who's going to go liberate Raqqa".

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