Russian, Syrian Aircraft Hit US-Backed Fighters

Russian and Syrian aircraft on Tuesday bombed US-backed rebels inside Syria in a series of bombings that came within three miles of US forces. The strike happened in a group of villages southeast of Al Bab, where both Russia and the US had been helping Turkish forces advance. US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said during a Wednesday briefing that the US forces were “advising at command echelons a little bit farther back” and observed the strikes. When it became apparent that the strikes were hitting Syrian Arab Coalition positions, the US made “some quick calls” to Russia through the established communication channels and Russia stopped the bombing. ISIS forces had previously held the villages before Syrian Arab Coalition forces moved in. “And so we worked out an arrangement, a deconfliction,” Townsend said. “This is something that goes on daily in the air. Not every day on the ground, but daily in the air there’s a deconfliction arrangement with the Russians.” The Syrian Arab Coalition forces did suffer casualties in the strike, Townsend said. It was not the first time Russian and Syrian aircraft have hit US-backed rebels. In June 2016, Russian aircraft reportedly used cluster munitions to strike US-supported rebels near al-Tanf, causing casualties.