Flashpoints

Russian patrol vehicle in clash with US convoy in Syria violated deconfliction rules, OIR says

The U.S. military said Thursday that the Russian patrol vehicle involved in a road incident with a U.S. military convoy in Syria violated deconfliction rules and was escorted out of the area of U.S. operations.

“On Feb. 19, 2020, a Russian patrol violated the de-confliction protocols and did not adhere to the de-confliction measures, and was escorted out of the area of U.S. operations,” Col. Myles B. Caggins III, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve told Military Times in an emailed statement.

U.S. Central Command is also reviewing a widely distributed video of that incident, showing the American military convoy running a Russian military vehicle off the road.

The video appears to show the latest in a series of escalating tensions between Russian and U.S. forces in congested northern Syria where a number of state and militia groups have filled a void of departing American troops.

The 45-second video, making the rounds on social media starting Wednesday, appears to show a U.S. Oshkosh M-ATV force and nearly ram what looks to be a Russian military police vehicle off the road. The Russian vehicle can be seen trying to aggressively push pass an American convoy.

Officials with Operation Inherent Resolve — the U.S.-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq in Syria — said they were reviewing the incident.

“The Coalition’s goal is to de-escalate any unplanned encounters with other forces operating in northeastern Syria. The videoed driving incident is under review," Caggins said.

It’s unknown if American forces attempted to flag or warn the Russian vehicle not to pass the convoy.

Capt. William Urban, the lead spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told Military times that CENTCOM is aware of the video and that they are looking into it.

Convoy operations in Iraq and Syria are inherently dangerous and American forces are trained to take appropriate precautions when dealing with vehicles approaching or operating in close proximity to U.S. military vehicles.

The exact location the video was shot is unknown. Social media clips claim the incident took place near eastern Qamishli in eastern Syria where Russian forces have a heavy presence.

U.S. officials have sounded alarm bells over recent attempts by Russian forces to ratchet up tensions with U.S. troops in the region that could spark a broader conflict or lead to violence.

Urban told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. military continues to maintain a “robust deconfliction line” with Russia. He said that “by and large” interactions with the Russians in Syria have been professional.

“Russian patrols routinely violate de-confliction protocols. Overall, most interactions remain professional and controlled,” Caggins said.

“We typically do not publicly share details of our frequent Russian deconfliction communications,” Caggins said.

The top U.S. envoy to Syria told reporters in early February that he was worried about the increasing number of incidents of Russian contractors pushing deep into U.S.-backed partner force territory in northeastern Syria.

A number of photos taken in January by Agence France-Presse photographer Delil Souleiman have depicted American Oshkosh M-ATV vehicles interdicting and blocking Russian armored vehicles along strategic roads in northeastern Syria.

James Jeffrey, the U.S. envoy to Syria, said Russians have on a “limited” number of occasions violated deconfliction agreements with U.S. forces by moving deep into Syrian Democratic Force’s territory.

“Now, more serious is we have seen a number — a limited number of occasions, but we have seen them — were they have tried to come deep into the area where we and the SDF are patrolling, well inside the basic lines that we have sketched, not right along the borders. Those are the ones that worry me,” Jeffrey said told reporters in February.

“But of course, any commander would be concerned about this, and we call upon the Russians to adhere fully to the deconfliction agreements we’ve made with them,” Jeffrey said.

In February, a U.S. military convoy came under fire and returned fire when it attempted to cross a checkpoint in northeastern Syria.

The Associated Press reported that pro-Syrian regime elements in northern Syria attempted to block the U.S. convoy which led to the clash. One Syrian was killed in the altercation, according to AP.

There are roughly 500 U.S troops in Syria.

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