New US commander of American troops in Iraq and Syria warned Syria and Russia that the US is to ‘defend’ US special forces in northern Syria if Syrian warplanes and artillery again attack in areas where troops are located
New US commander of American troops in Iraq and Syria warned Syria and Russia that the US is to ‘defend’ US special operations forces in northern Syria if Syrian army warplanes and artillery again attack in areas where troops are located.
"We've informed the Russians where we're at ... (they) tell us they've informed the Syrians, and I'd just say that we will defend ourselves if we feel threatened," Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told CNN in a telephone interview Saturday from his Baghdad headquarters.
The warning came after US fighter jets tried to engage Syrian Arab Air Force aircraft in Syria last week, but the showdown was avoided as government planes left before the Americans arrived.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis claimed on Friday the US fighters attempted to intercept the Syrian planes to protect American advisers – a term the US military often uses for its Special Operations Forces – working with Kurdish forces after the Syrian government jets bombed the area.
On Monday, another Pentagon spokesman, Peter Cook, said, "We would continue to advise the Syrian regime to steer clear of those areas." "We are going to defend our people on the ground, and do what we need to defend them," Cook told reporters.
"It's not a no-fly zone," he said, adding that “the Syrian regime would be wise to avoid areas where coalition forces have been operating."
When asked about Russia, Cook said the US would also do the same with Russian jets, which have been striking ISIL targets in Syria at the country's request since last year. "If they threaten US forces, we always have the right to defend our forces," Cook said.
The US and some of its Arab allies began their campaign in Syria in September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate.
Since then, they have been carrying out airstrikes in the war-torn country, but their air raids have done little to stop the Takfiri group’s advances there.