Pentagon Official Describes Response to Attack by Pro-Regime Syrian Forces

Members of the Iraqi Special Forces provide security during a final air mobility operations exercise at Camp Taji, Iraq, Nov. 27, 2017. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity locations dedicated to training partner forces and enhancing their effectiveness on the battlefield. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm)

By Terri Moon Cronk

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

When Syrian pro-regime forces attacked Syrian Democratic Forces yesterday, they moved in a battalion-sized unit formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White told reporters today.White said the attack on the SDF was unprovoked.

“Syrian Democratic Forces acted in self-defense with support from the coalition to defeat an unprovoked attack by Syrian pro-regime forces in eastern Syria,” she said. “Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates River deconfliction line.”

After 20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within about 500 yards of the SDF headquarters, the SDF, supported by the U.S.-led coalition, targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes, she said.

Coalition Advisors With SDF

“Coalition advisors were with the SDF, and this action was taken in self-defense,” White said. “Pro-regime vehicles and personnel that were turned around and headed back west were not targeted.”

The coalition observed a slow buildup of pro-regime forces over the past week, she added. Coalition officials alerted Russian officials of the SDF presence via the deconfliction line in advance of the attack, White said.

“The deconfliction line — the deconfliction process — served its purpose,” White told reporters. “Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the attack.”

Russian officials assured coalition officials they would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity, she said.

White noted one SDF soldier was wounded, and there were no coalition casualties. “Our forces have the inherent right to self-defense,” she said.

“We are not looking for a conflict with the regime,” she added. “Any action that takes away from our ongoing operations to defeat [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] is a distraction.”

And while the U.S.-led coalition mission hasn’t changed and ISIS is on the run, work remains to be done, she said.

“The military goal is to defeat ISIS in Syria,” White said. “Our position is to provide our diplomats with the strongest positions so that they can find a political, a diplomatic solution through the Geneva process.”

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