Published: Thu, March 02, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

USA commander downplays chance of big Iraq, Syria troop hike


Russian defense ministry denied on Wednesday that Russian aircraft bombed positions of Arab components of the US-backed SDF outside of al-Bab, rejecting an earlier statement by the USA general in charge of the anti-Daesh coalition.

In this photo provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows Russian air force Tu-22M3 bombers strike the Islamic State targets in Syria, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. The airstrikes took place in a village 9-12 miles from Manbij, near Al-Bab.

Russian and Syrian government aircraft bombed Syrians fighting to oust ISIS from towns northeast of Aleppo as US forces were on the ground nearby advising coalition fighters, the Defense Department said.

Townsend, who commands USA forces in Iraq and Syria, said these groups are "bumping up against each other" around the city, adding "three armies and an enemy force have all converged within the same grid square, so it's very hard and complicated" to know just who is where.

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

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Townsend said the United States is "still in decision-making stages" as to whether or not join the SDF assault on Raqqa "and what equipment they might need".

The deadly bombing run marks the second time in weeks that Russian planes have bombed friendly forces around al Bab.

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

"Last week, we saw Turk and Turk proxy forces fighters converge with Syrian regime and Syrian proxy fighters, ISIS being in the mix there". Russia, Turkey, the US and other countries are backing surrogate forces inside Syria, which has been in a civil war since 2011.

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".

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