American warplanes operating in Syria carried out airstrikes against government forces near the Iraqi border Thursday, officials from the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State confirmed.
The airstrikes took place near the southern Syrian town of At Tanf, where U.S. and coalition forces had established a so-called “de-confliction zone,” which also was home to a U.S. training camp for moderate Syrian militias, according to a command statement posted on the coalition’s Twitter site.
Coalition officials initially tried to stem the advance of the Syrian military convoy with a series of warning shots and U.S. aircraft carrying out a low flyover above the convoy in a show of force. Coalition forces even reached out to Russian counterparts, via the standing deconfliction channel between the two militaries, in order to halt the Syrian troops advancing into the zone, command officials say.
In the end, U.S. fighters were forced to engage the Syrian force by launching airstrikes against the convoy. The presence of regime troops so close to the deconfliction zone in At Tanif “posed a threat to U.S. partner forces,” say command officials.
“Coalition forces have operated in the At Tanf area for many months, training and advising vetted partner forces who are fighting” the Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, in Syria, the officials added.
A deadly combination of human error, bad intelligence and an increasingly complicated battlefield led to the mistaken bombing of Syrian government troops by American and coalition aircraft in September.
Misidentifying Syrian forces for Islamic State fighters, American and coalition warplanes dropped more than 30 bombs and fired more than 300 rounds for nearly a half-hour during the Sept. 17 attack near the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour before Russian commanders alerted their U.S. counterparts to their mistake.
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