US troops injured after Russian vehicle rams them in Syria

US has roughly 500 troops left in Syria to fight remnants of the Islamic State

Griffin Connolly
Wednesday 26 August 2020 14:27 EDT
US troops injured after Russian vehicle rams them in Syria

Four US troops were wounded in northeast Syria this week after a Russian vehicle intentionally rammed the one they were driving.

The four US service members were diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms after the altercation, Politico reported, citing a draft of a Pentagon statement.

A series of videos posted to Twitter on Wednesday appears to show several Russian patrol vehicles harassing US vehicles that had attempted to block their path.

One video shows one of the Russian vehicles, identified as a Kamaz Typhoon by the Twitter user, ramming into an American MaxxPro.

Another video shows a Russian helicopter flying low overhead of the skirmish of vehicles.

After the collision, the Russian vehicles unsafely pursued the American forces, Politico reported.

The US has maintained roughly 500 troops in Syria to help the paramilitary Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fight the remnants of the Islamic State there that took over wide swaths of Syria, Iraq, and Libya in the 2010s.

The Trump administration's policy in Syria has been haphazard at times, with the president abruptly calling for a withdrawal of all troops from the region in 2018, leading to widespread bipartisan pushback and the resignation of Defence Secretary James Mattis.

In October 2019, after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president ordered the removal of hundreds of US troops in northeast Syria as Turkish forces prepared to invade the region and steamroll the Americans' Kurdish allies in the region.

Democrat and Republican lawmakers condemned the president for abandoning US allies that have fought alongside its troops in the Middle East for nearly two decades, and allowing Isis and Isis-sympathetic prisoners to escape.

The SDF, a mostly Kurdish militia with some smaller Arab groups attached, has been Washington’s main ally in the fight against Isis in Syria. The group received US arms, as well as significant air and ground support in the battle to defeat the Isis caliphate. It lost some 11,000 fighters in the years-long war before recapturing the last piece of Isis territory in March 2019.

The drawdown by roughly half of the US peace-keeping forces in the region created a vacuum that Russia and Turkey have sought to fill, observers have said.

This week's harassment of US vehicles by Russian troops is one of a handful of recent escalations by Moscow to try to strong-arm the US out of the Syria — and the Middle East more broadly.

Earlier this summer, reports emerged that Donald Trump had received a written intelligence briefing containing allegations that Russia was paying bounties to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers.

The White House denied Mr Trump had ever been briefed on that intelligence report, even though the New York Times reported it was included in his daily written brief of national security intelligence matters in February.

The last time he was asked about it by reporters, the president said he had not brought up the alleged bounty programme in his calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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