Russian military provocations against the small contingent of U.S. forces in Syria have escalated in recent weeks. This has led to exchanges of gunfire, and a clash between Russian and U.S. tactical vehicles in late August, where seven American soldiers were injured.
Video shown on Twitter clearly shows the Russian vehicle ramming into the U.S. vehicle as Russian Mi-8 and Mi-35 helicopters pass low overhead as intimidation.
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
The Pentagon stated that the Russians were in a “security zone” the Russians had previously agreed to stay out of. I was one of those who urged a stronger U.S. response to these Russian military provocations. The Pentagon is now doing just that.
According to the BBC, U.S. officials said six Bradley Fighting Vehicles and about 100 troops were being deployed to north-east Syria from Kuwait to reinforce the 500 troops currently there to help secure the area and its oil fields from Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
These added troops and tracked Bradleys should give the troops operating there valuable additional firepower to augment their more lightly armed Max Pro MRAP wheeled tactical vehicles.
A Pentagon spokesman was quoted by BBC as saying the move would “ensure the safety and security of Coalition forces,” adding that the U.S. would also deploy a “Sentinel radar” and increase “the frequency of US fighter patrols over US forces.”
In a move I criticized at the time – especially due to its abruptness, President Trump in October 2019 decided to withdraw 1,000 US troops that were supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance. The Russians back Syrian government forces fighting the Kurds.
The president’s intent was to fulfill his promise to end U.S. involvement in “forever wars” but many saw it as a strategic mistake and abandonment of strong U.S. allies. Thankfully, Trump later decided to keep a few hundred troops in the country to “protect the oil wells.”
This small contingent, however, appears too small and lightly armed to fulfill the mission in the face of growing Russian belligerence. I have argued that the mission is important, but the President should either strongly support the troops on the ground, or fully withdraw them.
It appears Trump has decided to reinforce the troops and send a message to Vladimir Putin at the same time. While the Pentagon spokesman announcing the deployment did not mention Russia by name, an unnamed U.S. official was quoted by the NBC News explicitly linking the U.S. reinforcements to Russian actions, saying:
“These actions and reinforcements are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual de-confliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional, unsafe and provocative actions in north-east Syria.”
Well done, and well said. Putin – take note.