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US downs Syrian warplane while defending SDF

Bill Roggio
19th June 2017 - FDD's Long War Journal

The US military shot down a Syrian fighter bomber yesterday after it attacked Syrian Democratic Forces in a town recently liberated from the Islamic State. The incident is part of the growing US escalation and involvement in Syria’s civil war as the Islamic State’s territory in Syria is shrinking and US allies are coming into contact with Syrian forces and its allies, including Russia, Iran, and a host of Shiite militias that are hostile to the US.

US Central Command, or CENTCOM, documented the engagement in a press release. According to CENTCOM, A US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter-bomber after it attacked Syrian Democratic Forces south of the town of Tabqa. The US military downed the Syrian warplane “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces.”

Prior to the engagement, the US attempted to warn the Syrian military using an “established ‘deconfliction line'” with Russia. Pro-Syrian government forces were fighting the SDF in Ja’Din, which is “two kilometers north of an established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense responded by shutting down the deconfliction hotline and warning that all US aircraft may now be considered hostile targets.

“In the areas of combat missions of Russian air fleet in Syrian skies, any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets,” a statement released by the Russian Ministry of Defense declared.

US coming into direct confrontation with Syria and its allies

Over the past several months, the US military has come in closer contact with the Syrian regime and its allies as all sides seek to capitalize on the the Islamic State’s shrinking control of territory. This has put the US military, which is backing anti-government forces, in direct conflict with Syria and its allies.

The US military has attacked pro-Syrian regime militias, including some Shiite military from Iraq, in the At Tanf area near the Jordanian border, three times since mid-May. The US is training militias to battle the Islamic State at a base in At Tanf, while the militias seek to control the border crossing and lines of communication to Deir al Zour in order to regain control of the Euphrates River Valley from the Islamic State.

While the US military has insisted its mission “is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria” and “does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” it reiterated that it “will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

This stance indicates that the US mission in Syria is dangerously morphing from a counterterrorism action against the Islamic State into a party to Syria’s civil war.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Follow Bill on Twitter @billroggio.



islamic-state, syria