MidEast

U.S. Strikes Kill More Than 100 Syrian Troops after They Attack Kurdish Allies

The U.S.-led coalition in Syria conducted air and artillery strikes against pro-regime forces on Wednesday, killing more than 100 troops allied with the regime of Bashar al-Assad, after an “unprovoked attack” on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Politico reported.

Pro-regime troops marched on the compound of the SDF in Khusham, Syria, in a “coordinated attack” using artillery, mortar fire and Russian-made tanks, according to a military spokesman. The coalition described its action as an act of “self-defense.”

Col. Thomas Veale of the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the command that is directing the battle against the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, said that “after 20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF headquarters location, Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the Coalition targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes.” He added: “Coalition advisers were with the SDF in an advise, assist and accompany capacity, and this action was taken in self-defense.”

The official said no coalition or U.S. personnel had been killed or wounded in the engagement but that one member of the SDF sustained injuries.

The SDF is an alliance of Arab and Kurdish forces, based in northern and eastern Syria, that together with the U.S.-led coalition are fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS. The group has received weapons and training from the coalition.

The military spokesperson said the coalition believes that pro-regime forces were attempting to seize territory, including lucrative oil fields east of the Euphrates River, that the SDF had liberated from ISIS in September.

They “were likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for Daesh from 2014 to 2017,” the official said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Veale confirmed that efforts were taken prior to the airstrikes to avoid any confrontation with Russian military forces in the area that are backing the Assad regime. “Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted PRF attack. Russian officials assured Coalition officials they would not engage Coalition forces in the vicinity,” he said.

This is not the first time the U.S.-led coalition clashed with pro-regime forces in Syria.

The U.S. shot down a Syrian regime Su-22 jet last June that had attacked allied forces on the ground and the collation struck regime forces posing a threat to a base at At Tanf, Syria, that houses U.S. and coalition military advisers. A pro-regime drone was also grounded after it dropped a munition in the vicinity of U.S. troops in Syria.

Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, warned the Syrian government it would be “ill-advised” to launch more chemical weapons attacks.

[Photo: U.S. Central Command ]