Multiple US troops injured in confrontation with Russian forces in Syria, Pentagon refuses to comment
The Donald Trump administration recently faced flak over a media report that Russia is paying money to Taliban extremists in Afghanistan to kill American troops deployed in Afghanistan. Though Trump downplayed the report saying it had little worth, he was accused of being soft on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin despite the Kremlin allegedly targeting US troops.
Now, it has been said that Russian forces have physically attacked American service members in northeast Syria, leaving four personnel injured. Politico cited a draft military statement and an informed source to report on Wednesday, August 26, that the incident happened following an altercation between the personnel of the two countries. A second US source briefed on the issue said multiple American troops were injured.
Videos of the incident came on Twitter on Wednesday showing a Russian vehicle ramming an American vehicle, and a Russian helicopter flying low over American forces.
A longer video of the confrontation. US forces appear to be blocking a road and then attempt to block the path of the Russian patrol when they drive through the field. An American MaxxPro MRAP appears to collide with a Russian Typhoon-K MRAP. 319/https://t.co/iCliZSYVY9 pic.twitter.com/xZTtN6l0Ib— Rob Lee (@RALee85) August 26, 2020
Though National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot confirmed the encounter partially after the Politico report came out, he did not say the injuries involved American troops. According to Ullyot, the incident happened around 10 am Syria time when a routine security patrol faced the Russian troops near Dayrick in northeast Syria. A Russian armored vehicle hit a coalition vehicle, leaving the crew injured. Ullyot said the coalition patrol then left the scene “to de-escalate the situation.” The injured personnel was diagnosed with mild concussion-like symptoms, it was reported.
Ullyot condemned the Russian actions saying: “Unsafe and unprofessional actions like this represent a breach of de-confliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019. The Coalition and the United States do not seek escalation with any national military forces, but U.S. forces always retain the inherent right and obligation to defend themselves from hostile acts.”
Pentagon hasn't publicly acknowledged incident
According to a CNN report, the officials said a Russian military helicopter flew low and fast over the area where the incident happened to disperse the personnel on the ground, an often-used tactic by the forces. They reportedly said the US military leadership was aware of the incident soon after it happened but the Pentagon did not publicly acknowledge that American troops were hurt. In fact, multiple US officials familiar with the incident told CNN that the White House discouraged the Pentagon from publicly confirming the confrontation that happened in Syria between the two old enemies. One official said it was not clear why the White House was treating the matter with caution and indicated that the officials wanted time to discuss the issue with the Russian counterparts.
Commander Jessica McNulty, a spokeswoman at Pentagon, told CNN that the delay in making a public announcement over the incident was because the defense department “was coordinating a response with the White House and Department of State”. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley spoke to his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov on Wednesday over the phone, according to the Pentagon, but the details were yet to be released.
American and Russian militaries have been working in close proximity in the violence-ravaged Middle Eastern country throughout its long-running civil war and both sides have maintained a communication line to avoid running into each other. In the recent months, however, the Russian forces have encroached upon the territory controlled by the US forces -- a move that officials believe is being done to remove the American military out of the region, Politico reported in June. Clashes between the forces of the two countries have not been frequent though there was an ugly incident in 2018 when American commandos killed 200-300 pro-Syrian government forces, including Russian mercenaries, from the Wagner Group.