This is why it sucks to be Putin’s butt-boy in Syria.
The Pentagon has disclosed that Syrian Su-24 tactical bombers bombed a position in northeastern Syria this week where U.S. special forces are embedded with the Kurdish YPG.
U.S. fighters scrambled in response, according to the Pentagon spokesman. By the time they got on-station, the Syrian aircraft had departed the area. Washington Post describes the event:
The strikes targeted Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian city of Hasakah on Thursday, said Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman. Coalition Special Operations forces, which have been advising Kurdish and Arab fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, were in the area, but none were injured. Social media reports indicated that several Kurds were killed in the bombing. …
U.S. aircraft arrived in the area as the Syrian aircraft were leaving. Rankine-Galloway said U.S. forces contacted their Russian counterparts through pre-established channels that ensure the two countries avoid any potential incidents in the region. When the Russians indicated that the planes bombing near the coalition forces were not theirs, the U.S. launched a “combat air patrol,” Rankine-Galloway said. While he would not specify from where the U.S. aircraft launched, the United States maintains a contingent of F-15 fighter jets specifically designed for air-to-air combat at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
During the bombing, local forces on the ground attempted to contact the Syrian aircraft through an internationally recognized radio channel used to hail aircraft called a “guard” frequency, but got no response.
The WaPo article leaves out a point made by Navy Captain Jeff Davis, and reported by RT (emphasis added):
By the time the US jets arrived, the Syrian bombers had already departed. No Americans were wounded in the bombing, according to Davis. The Special Forces were ordered to retreat from the area as a precaution.
So coalition operations were interrupted.
But WaPo obtained this additional detail from an anonymous official:
According to a senior defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a developing situation, two Syrian Su-24s returned to the airspace near Hasakah on Friday but were deterred from entering the area by coalition aircraft.
Not a stable situation. Besides the fact that the Syrians won’t accept being denied air space sectors indefinitely (especially on their own territory), there’s the question of what it bought us to set up this “joint agreement” subordinating U.S. military operations in Syria to a Russian veto — which, alert readers will remember, includes the U.S telling Russia where our Special Operations Forces are.
That last point is what our vice president calls a big effing deal. Other than during the Obama years, we haven’t made a practice of roaming the globe telling everybody and his dog where our SOF commandos are located. Telling Russia where they are is a yuuge breach of the secrecy that has normally — and appropriately — surrounded our special forces.
It was obvious to any clear-eyed observer from the beginning that “coordinating” and “deconflicting” our operations with Russia would mean the U.S. providing information but not receiving it; the U.S. being stonewalled; and the U.S. retreating whenever there was a tactical conflict. The first two checks are in the block. (If we contact Russia about their allies, the Syrians, bombing us, and get only the answer that “Hey, it’s not Russian planes out there” — that’s stonewalling. If we agreed in advance to accept such answers, somebody should be horsewhipped, and preferably shot at dawn.)
This imbecilic basis for “cooperation” wouldn’t work under the best of circumstances. But we’re nowhere near the best of circumstances now, with tensions at a fever pitch over Ukraine, and Russia moving in on NATO ally Turkey, which is going off the deep end nicely all on its own.
I hope it is clear to even the most optimistic conventional analyst that there is no salvaging Obama’s posture on Syria. It’s a lost cause. He will not be making any wiser decisions in the next five months.
But it is criminal to put our troops in the position they’re in, in Syria. It would be a grave misstep to simply abandon Syria, but an even worse outcome to have Americans killed there by members of the Russian-Iranian coalition.
The worst of all worlds will be U.S. forces having to somehow pretend to operate there while being jacked around by one Russian veto-by-proxy after another. And that’s what’s next. Syria won’t give up on the ability to attack the targets the Assad regime wants to attack. The U.S. will back off — because Obama’s got nothing, and there is nothing else to do.