Damaged buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor, June 13, 2013.Picture taken June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi  Damaged buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor, June 13, 2013.Picture taken June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

American-Russian collision over Syria ascends

Sun, Dec. 10, 2017
CAIRO – 10 December 2017: The friction between the United States and Russia over Syria becomes more intense this week as each attempt to attain higher credit for defeating the Islamic State (IS). The two also blame one another for the unsafe encounters in airspace.

On Wednesday, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov declared that IS no longer controls any territories in Syria except for some spots dominated by the opposition.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) dismissed that in a statement to Sputnik on Saturday, saying that IS continues to operate in Deir al-Zour governorate. The Syrian national army declared the liberation of Deir al-Zour – described as the terrorists' last stronghold on the west bank of the Euphrates River – from IS in November.

Euphrates_Map
Syria map - CC via Wikimedia Commons/the United States Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook

He added that the United States still carries out airstrikes on the East Bank of the Middle Euphrates River Valley in support of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and that IS militants are likely to exist on the west bank of the Euphrates River, between the towns of Mayadin and Abu Kamal since Russia and the Syrian regime continue to launch airstrikes there.

On the same day, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov accused the U.S. forces of attempting to hamper the destruction of Daesh strongholds in the Euphrates valley where most aircraft encounters occur.

Russia Today reported that the Russian military cited as an example an incident that occurred on November 23 when a U.S. F-22 fighter allegedly prevented two Russian Su-25 strike aircraft from bombing an IS base to the west of the Euphrates River.

A Pentagon representative negated such incidents in a comment to Sputnik Saturday saying that claiming that “The U.S.-led coalition, not the Russian Federation or Syrian Regime, is the only force that has made meaningful progress against IS.”

The U.S. military has accused Russia and the Syrian regime of violating the policies agreed upon by the United States and Russia claiming that their aircrafts has been crossing into their airspace in Syria.

The spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said Saturday that the frequency of such incidents has slightly increased over the past week, and that they mounted to six and eight times daily in November on the east side of the Euphrates River despite mutual de-confliction calls.

"The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces," Pickart stated, according to CNN.

"It's been a challenge for our pilots to discern whether this is deliberate on the part of the Russian pilots, or if these are just honest mistakes," he added.

He indicated that most of the unsafe encounters take place in the airspace over the Middle Euphrates River Valley between the Syrian town of Mayadin and the Iraqi border, “where the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Iraqi government troops are fighting the remnants of ISIS,” as CNN reported.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon stated, according to Russia Today, “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”

The United States justifies its military presence in Syria on the basis of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Al-Qaeda and other terrorists by the U.S. Congress. However, the Syrian regime considers that presence illegal resorting to the military help of Russia since 2015.

The details of a phone call on Wednesday between the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov have not been unveiled, according to a spokesman for the Joint Staff.

There is still no indication of when the military presence of both the United States and Russia would end in Syria as anti-terrorism activities do not appear to end soon which makes possible further military maneuvers between both superpowers.
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