USA commander downplays chance of big Iraq, Syria troop hike

Russian and Syrian aircraft mistakenly bombed members of us -backed Syrian forces near the Syrian town of al-Bab, with USA troops just a few kilometers away, a top us general in Iraq said.

Russian and Syrian forces "accidentally" bombed US -backed fighters in Syria on Tuesday, killing some Syrian rebels, a top USA general said Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, said ISIS fighters had withdrawn from the towns and Syrian-Arab coalition troops had moved in.

USA forces, who were a couple of miles away to assist the Syrian fighters, called in the information and the Russians halted the airstrikes, Townsend said.

Quick calls to Russian forces through "deconfliction channels" stopped the bombing, he said.

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Russian Federation deployed aircrafts to Syria in late 2015 to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS, while US troops support the Syrian opposition forces, and the two sides set up a communication channel to avoid getting into each other's air space.

In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, Russian SU-24M jet fighter armed with laser guided bombs takes off from a runaway at Hmeimim airbase in Syria.

He referred to the Syrian forces to disclose the number and extent of the casualties.

The general sought to tamp down tensions, saying that "the coalition is encouraged" by the progress against ISIS by the Turkish military and their proxies. The Russian warplanes struck several small villages in northern Syria when they mistakenly thought Islamic State forces were in the area.

The U.S.is backing a force of Syrian Arabs and Kurds that is closing in on Raqqa, the de-facto capital in Syria of the Islamic State, which is also called ISIS. The U.S. has provided some air support for the Turkish forces when they have attacked ISIS positions, but have not participated in any of their clashes with the SDF. 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.

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