US Scrambles Jets to Protect Ground Forces in Syria

The US scrambled aircraft ready to take down Syrian jets that were bombing in the vicinity of US special operations forces near the village of Hasakah on Aug. 18, the Pentagon said. Two Syrian Air Force Su-24s dropped unguided munitions in Kurdish-held areas near the village in Northeast Syria where US forces were training allied Kurdish fighters, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said during an Aug. 19 briefing. When the bombing started, the US Combined Air Operations Center immediately called Russian officials, who confirmed it was Syrian aircraft. At the same time ground forces—it’s unclear whether they were US or Kurdish—used the emergency guard frequency to try to contact the Syrian jets, which did not respond. The US did not intercept the Syrian fighters, but responded to the air space and were ready to “take whatever action is necessary” to protect US forces if they were threatened, said Davis.

After increasing combat air patrols over Hasakah to keep an eye on the area and ensure the safety of American forces, the US told Russia to pass along the message to Syria that it is ready to protect US forces using whatever action necessary, Davis said. The US also warned Syria not to interfere with US operations. The small number of US special operators who were in the region advising and training Kurdish fighters have since reportedly left the area. There is no ISIS presence near Hasakah, and there had been small skirmishes between Kurdish and Syrian fighters. However, Davis said he hopes the Aug. 18 incident ended that escalation.