US Says Russia 'Accidentally' Bombed American-Backed Syrian Troops

A fighter of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters looks with binoculars as he sits next to anti-tank weapons in the village of Sabah al-Khayr

Russia, Turkey, the USA and other countries are backing surrogate forces inside Syria, which has been in a civil war since 2011.

Syrian regime forces, backed by Hizbullah fighters on the ground and air support from Russian Federation, recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State (ISIS) on March 2, the Syrian military said. US 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.

Tuesday's incident marks the second time in a month that Russian aircraft mistakenly attacked friendly forces, according to Townsend. "The Russian side took this information into account", the Russian Defense Ministry said. "Russian or Syrian aircraft haven't dealt a single strike on the areas designated by the U.S".

Townsend said the attack occurred southeast of al-Bab and 10-12 miles from Manbij city, in an area that ISIS fighters had been operating before withdrawing as rebel forces advanced.

Townsend mentioned the incident to illustrate his point that the battlefield in Syria is exceptionally complex.

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

"This is something that goes on daily in the air", Townsend said of deconfliction.

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"Last week, we saw Turk and Turk proxy forces fighters converge with Syrian regime and Syrian proxy fighters, ISIS being in the mix there".

An analysis from the Institute for the Study of War Wednesday said if the Turks moved on Manbij, it would "derail the US -backed campaign against ISIS and create opportunities for al Qaeda to expand further in Syria".

Townsend did not comment on relations with Russian other than to mention that a U.S. But senior US officials have not cooperated directly with the Russians, in part because of legislation first passed in 2014 that forbids that kind of engagement because of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. "We've seen them use ... tunnels, shipping containers and vehicles in the streets to slow the [Iraqi forces] down, and they've rigged many of these barriers with explosives".

More broadly, the general said he is satisfied that the US counter-IS strategy as developed during the Obama years is working.

"I think they'll need additional combat power", Townsend said. He suggested that no major changes were needed and explicitly stated that sending large numbers of US troops, as Trump proposed during the presidential campaign, would not help. "We're not fighting, we're not at the front, we're advising at command echelons a little bit farther back", he said. "Not every day on the ground, but daily in the air there's a deconfliction arrangement with the Russians".

Others have said the Trump administration might seek to accelerate the assault on Raqqa by putting additional US trainers and advisers into Syria and possibly sending small numbers of conventional forces to operate long-range artillery.

There seems to be no end to the fighting in Syria-or the airstrikes.

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