Russian and Assad regime troops surround a US military convoy near Qamishli, Syria, February 2020 (AP)
UPDATE, AUGUST 28:
US and Russian militaries have traded blame over Wednesday’s collision between their armored vehicles in northeast Syria which injured four American troops.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement:
Russian forces breached our deconfliction arrangement in Syria and injured US service members with their deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior.”
We have advised the Russians that their behavior was dangerous and unacceptable. We expect a return to routine and professional deconfliction in Syria and reserve the right to defend our forces vigorously whenever their safety is put at risk.
Earlier Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed the US military, saying Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov had raised in a phone call with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.
The Ministry claimed that it had warned the US military of a passage of a column of military police: “In spite of this, in breach of the existing agreements, the US troops attempted to block the Russian patrol.”
The military police took “necessary measures” to end the incident and carry on their mission, the statement said.
US Central Command spokesman Capt. William Urban countered that “the Russians did not use established deconfliction measures to request passage of a Russian convoy” on a road near the town of al-Malikiyah in Hasakah Province.
Urban said the Russian convoy, moving through a field, “proceeded to aggressively and recklessly pursued” a joint patrol of US personnel and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
All seven injured soldiers had been treated for “mild concussive-type injuries, and muscular strains” and returned to base.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY, AUGUST 27: Four US troops have been injured in a clash with Russian forces in northeast Syria.
The soldiers have “mild concussion-like symptoms” after a confrontation between Russian and US armored vehicles, according to a US military official and a draft statement.
About 10 am on Wednesday, a US security patrol encountered Russian troops near the town of al-Malikiyah in Hasakah Province.
National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot said the Russian vehicle struck its American counterpart, injuring the crew. He said the patrol left the area “to de-escalate the situation”.
Videos appeared to show a collision after the Russian convoy tried to pass the Americans on a road and then in a field. A Russian helicopter flew low overhead.
A longer video of the confrontation. US forces appear to be blocking a road and then attempt to block the path of the Russian patrol when they drive through the field. An American MaxxPro MRAP appears to collide with a Russian Typhoon-K MRAP. 319/https://t.co/iCliZSYVY9 pic.twitter.com/xZTtN6l0Ib
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) August 26, 2020
A Kurdish autonomous administration controls much of the northeast, after the US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces evicted the Islamic State in March 2019. However, Russia and the Assad regime hold part of the area.
Tense encounters between the US force, Assad regime troops, and the Russians have increased recently, in an area with most of Syria’s oil and gas fields. On August 17, a regime soldier was killed and two wounded after a clash with US and SDF personnel near the city of Qamishli in Hasakah Province.
The National Security Council’s Ullyot asserted:
Unsafe and unprofessional actions like this represent a breach of de-confliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019.
The Coalition and the United States do not seek escalation with any national military forces, but US forces always retain the inherent right and obligation to defend themselves from hostile acts.
The Pentagon said the Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, Gen. Mark Milley, spoke to his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov by telephone on Wednesday. No details were given.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said only, “A telephone conversation was held at the level of the heads of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”