US General Says Russia Inadvertently Bombed US-Backed Syrian Fighters

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Russian and Syrian government aircraft bombed Syrians fighting to oust ISIS from towns northeast of Aleppo as USA forces were on the ground nearby advising coalition fighters, the Defense Department said.

Top US commander in Iraq Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend dismissed the idea that the current plans for US escalation in Iraq and Syria would result in the deployment of "large numbers" of additional US combat troops.

The latest near miss occurred near the city of al Bab, just northeast of Aleppo, which Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies recently took from ISIS, leaving them in a staredown with Syrian regime forces who site just south of the city.

Quick calls to Russian forces through "deconfliction channels" stopped the bombing, he said.

"To avoid any incidents, the United States representative has provided exact coordinates of the US-backed opposition forces in the region to a Russian officer", the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the information was "taken into account" by the Russian military.

The Syrian army said on Thursday it had recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State for the second time in a year, with help from allied forces and Russian warplanes. "We have YPG, Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, and Syrian Arab Coalition fighters also right bumping up against each other there", he said. But he said IS fighters had withdrawn before the bombing, and opposition fighters from the so-called Syrian Arab Coalition had moved in.

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It's unclear whether President Donald Trump will seek military coordination with Russia in Syria; his predecessor deemed it inappropriate, arguing that the Russians were at cross purposes with the U.S.by acting to prop up the Syrian government. Townsend said Islamic State militants were in the area at one point, but fled to avoid advancing forces, including those backed by Turkey.

Russian Federation denied responsibility, saying in a written statement that it had adhered to US guidance on avoiding friendly forces in that area.

"To avoid any incidents, the U.S. representative has provided exact coordinates of the US-backed opposition forces in the region to a Russian officer", the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the information was "taken into account" by the Russian military. In early February, a Russian bombing killed three Turkish soldiers in northern Syria.

An analysis from the Institute for the Study of War Wednesday said if the Turks moved on Manbij, it would "derail the USA -backed campaign against ISIS and create opportunities for al Qaeda to expand further in Syria".

"There were USA forces in the area", he added.

"We've continued discussing how Turkey and their partner forces might contribute to the liberation of the city", Townsend acknowledged.

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