US strikes pro-govt forces in Syria, shoots down drone
“Today was the third set of kinetic strikes the U.S. conducted in response to threats posed to Coalition forces operating out of At Tanf. The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces. However, we remain ready to defend ourselves against any threat,” said Dillon, deploying the same language that was used to explain the strikes on May 18 and June 6.
Despite broad similarities with previous incidents, there were key differences. Dillon said that a US patrol went outside the 55km deconfliction zone, when it was fired on by a drone belonging to pro-government forces analogous to the US MQ-1, which it then destroyed.
Syria does not recognize US deconfliction zones inside its sovereign territory.
While the US previously said that Russia approved a safe zone outside At Tanf, where American forces are training anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militias, this week Moscow said that “unilaterally-declared” deconfliction zones are “illegitimate.”
Dillon said that the second strike earlier on Thursday was against a weapons-laden pickup truck near the training base, where several hundred US personnel are stationed. Its allegiance was not specified and no casualties were sustained by coalition forces in either incident.
Earlier this week, the coalition began a full-scale assault on Raqqa, the Islamic State “capital”, located to the north of At Tanf, which is likely to take months. Despite rising diplomatic tension, US troops are unlikely to leave at least until its fall.
“Coalition forces have been located at At Tanf for more than a year. The garrison is a temporary Coalition location to train vetted forces to defeat ISIS and will not be vacated until ISIS is defeated,” said a statement from the US Central Command.