The US military has sent more than 100 marines to Syria to protect an illegal American base there.
Pentagon officials said that the reinforcements were flown to southeast Syria for a snap live-fire exercise, sending a “strong message” to Russia not to conduct operations near the US base
Russia had allegedly warned Washington it was about to attack terrorists in the area.
Press TV reports: According to the Saturday statement by the US Defense Department, the American troops were flown by helicopter to the base located in the small town of at-Tanf, near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan, pro-US military news website Task & Purpose reported.
The base is being used by US Special Forces to train anti-Syria terrorists allied with a US-led coalition that claims to battle foreign-backed Daesh (ISIL) militants, widely believe to be sponsored by Washington-allied Saudi Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the Marines deployed to at-Tanf would conduct a multi-day exercise using live ammunition.
“Our forces will demonstrate the capability to deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces and conduct rapid exfiltration,” said CENTCOM’s chief spokesman Capt. William Urban.
According to the report, US officials dealing with the Syria issue have further stated in recent days that “the administration is now resolved to stay in Syria longer than President [Donald] Trump previously indicated” in a purported bid to “finish the fight against Islamic State but also to see the withdrawal of Iranian fighters.”
This is while Trump had previously stated that he wanted American troops out of Syria as soon as possible and redirected millions of dollars meant to help rebuild Syria to other military projects.
Russia warns US of impending attack on Tanf
The development came following US press reports that Moscow has sent messages to Washington in recent days, warning that Russian military along with Syrian government forces were planning an offensive on what they refer to as terrorist forces near at-Tanf.
CNN cited several US military officials as saying on Friday that Russia has warned the Pentagon twice in the past week that its forces, together with Syrian troops, were prepared to wage an attack on terrorists in the area where dozens of US troops are stationed at At-Tanf garrison, described as “a key strategic location” for the US as it competes with Iran and Russia for influence in the region.
The report further underlined that Moscow’s warning has sharply raised US commanders’ concerns that American troops would be at risk if a Russian attack goes forward, prompting Washington to warn Moscow “not to challenge the US military presence.”
According to the report, US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford were aware of the latest intelligence, adding that American troops in Syria “have the right of self-defense if they are attacked and would not need to ask permission from higher levels of the government before acting.”
US warns Russia, Syria against attacking Tanf
Reacting to Moscow’s warnings, US military officials “bluntly warned Russia and Syria not to go forward with an attack within a 35-mile-wide security zone that the US maintains around Tanf,” Task & Purpose further reported.
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” said CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown, as quoted in the report. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition or partner forces.”
Brown further stated that Russian military officials first notified the US on September 1 through a special communication channel “that they intended to enter the At-Tanf deconfliction zone to pursue terrorists.”
According to the report, that was followed by a letter sent Thursday to Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the commander of US forces in Syria, warning that Russia planned to carry out “precision strikes” near Tanf against ISIL militants, a warning that prompted Funk to speed up plans to dispatch additional troops to the base.
Pentagon officials were also cited in the report as saying that Russia’s threat to carry out precision strikes against Tanf suggested it might be contemplating use of airstrikes, missiles, long-range artillery or bombardment from Russian warships in the Mediterranean.
The officials further added that such an attack may prompt American forces to respond with “punishing reprisals using similar weapons, especially if a Russian attack caused casualties to the US or its allies.”
Brown also pointed out that Moscow has previously agreed not to enter the zone around Tanf, saying: “We expect the Russians to abide by this agreement.”
US forces on high alert in Syria
The report further underlined that US military forces in Syria were put on high alert after Russian bombardment of terrorist targets in the country’s Idlib province in an apparent preparation of a looming offensive against the militants, as well as Moscow’s latest warning of an impending attack on militant forces based near the key US training garrison in at-Tanf.