World: Pentagon alarmed by uptick in close calls with Russia jets in Syria - - PressFrom - US
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World Pentagon alarmed by uptick in close calls with Russia jets in Syria

20:39  15 december  2017
20:39  15 december  2017 Source:   afp.com

Pentagon signals open-ended troop commitment in Syria

  Pentagon signals open-ended troop commitment in Syria The US military plans on staying in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State group does not return, a Pentagon official told AFP on Tuesday, as the fight against the jihadists winds down. "We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to -- to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups," Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.The United States currently has approximately 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, where they have been helping train and advise Kurdish and Arab partner forces in the fight against IS.

Pentagon alarmed by uptick in close calls with russia jets in syria Washington (AFP) - The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of

The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of Russian pilots in Syria could lead to a mishap -- or even the nightmare scenario of a US jet shooting down a Russian warplane. Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes

During one incident in November, an F-22 intercepted a Russian plane and was ready to fire, US officials say © Provided by AFP During one incident in November, an F-22 intercepted a Russian plane and was ready to fire, US officials say

The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of Russian pilots in Syria could lead to a mishap -- or even the nightmare scenario of a US jet shooting down a Russian warplane.

Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes, including one Wednesday where a pair of US F-22s intercepted two Russian jets over a part of Syria the Pentagon says they are not meant to be operating in.

The uptick in incidents comes as remaining operations by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria have shrunk down to an area of only about 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) around Albu Kamal in eastern Syria, by the Iraq border.

Pentagon: Four times as many US troops in Syria than previously acknowledged

  Pentagon: Four times as many US troops in Syria than previously acknowledged The Defense Department on Wednesday acknowledged that the U.S. has roughly 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, four times more than what officials had claimed just a month ago. The number does not represent an increase in troop levels in the country, a Pentagon spokesman said, but instead reflects a more accurate count. The U.S. military had as recently as November said the official troop count in Syria was 503.

The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of Russian pilots in Syria could lead to a mishap -- or Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes, including one Wednesday where a pair of US F-22s intercepted two Russian jets over a part of Syria

The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of Russian pilots in Syria could lead to a mishap -- or even the nightmare scenario of a US jet shooting down a Russian warplane. Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes

Coalition forces are giving air support to partner troops on the ground as they root out remaining IS fighters east of the Euphrates River. Under a verbal agreement, the Russians, who support President Bashar Al-Assad, are supposed to stay to the west.

Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, an Air Force spokesman in the Middle East, outlined a string of instances where Russian fighter jets flew east of the Euphrates without notifying the coalition.

On November 15 two US A-10 Warthog ground-attack planes nearly collided head on with a Russian Su-24 Fencer that passed within only 300 feet (90 meters) of the American planes -- a mere whisker in aviation terms.

a close up of a map: Map showing the defeats of Islamic State group in cities and towns of Syria and Iraq. © Provided by AFP Map showing the defeats of Islamic State group in cities and towns of Syria and Iraq.

One A-10 pilot had to "aggressively execute a defensive maneuver to avoid a midair collision," Pickart said in an email to AFP.

U.S. Says 2,000 Troops Are in Syria, a Fourfold Increase

  U.S. Says 2,000 Troops Are in Syria, a Fourfold Increase The new total counts service members on short-term deployments who were not included in Obama-era troop totals.WASHINGTON — About 2,000 American troops are in Syria fighting the Islamic State, a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday, almost four times the total previously disclosed as the Trump administration changes how troop numbers are publicly counted.

The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of Russian pilots in Syria could lead to a mishap -- or even the nightmare scenario of a US jet shooting Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes, including one Wednesday, when a pair of US F-22s

The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of Russian pilots in Syria could lead to a mishap — or Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes, including one Wednesday where a pair of US F-22s intercepted two Russian jets over a part of Syria

Then on November 17, two F-22s intercepted an armed Russian Su-24 that flew over coalition and partner forces three times and failed to respond to radio call.

"The F-22s intercepted this pilot and were in a position to fire," Pickart said.

"Luckily our pilots showed restraint, but given the actions of the Su-24 aircraft could have reasonably been interpreted as threatening to US forces, our pilots would have been well within our rights to engage."

Since Moscow entered the Syria war in late 2015, Russia and the United States have been using a special "deconfliction" hotline to communicate about operations occurring in similar locations. Officials use the line constantly.

- 'Greatest concern' -

A shootdown of a Russian jet, or a midair collision, could suddenly and dramatically shift the stakes in the knotted Syria conflict and open the door to a retaliatory measures by the Russians.

Russian military: Mission accomplished; Islamic State defeated in Syria

  Russian military: Mission accomplished; Islamic State defeated in Syria Russia's military said on Thursday it had accomplished its mission of defeating Islamic State in Syria, and there were no remaining settlements there under the group's control.Russian bombers had used unprecedented force in the final stages to finish off the militant group, a senior Russian officer said.

The Pentagon is voicing growing alarm that the risky flying of Russian pilots in Syria could lead to a mishap -- or even the nightmare scenario of a US jet shooting Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes, including one Wednesday, when a pair of US F-22s

The uptick in incidents comes as remaining operations by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria have shrunk down. Defense officials this week highlighted several recent close calls with Russian planes, including one Wednesday, December 13, when a pair of US F-22s intercepted

"The coalition's greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces," Pickart said.

A Russian Su-24 Fencer nearly collided with two US A-10s, US officials say © Provided by AFP A Russian Su-24 Fencer nearly collided with two US A-10s, US officials say

"We are not here to fight the Russians and Syrians -- our focus remains on defeating ISIS. That said, if anyone threatens coalition or friendly partner forces in the air or on the ground, we will defend them."

At one point during Wednesday's incident, the US F-22 Raptor stealth fighters deployed chaff and flares to convince the Russian Su-25s to leave the area, and one US pilot had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.

During and following the encounter, coalition leaders contacted Russian officers on a special hotline to try to calm the situation and avert a "strategic miscalculation," Pahon said.

More than 340,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian war, and millions have been displaced.

UN to vote on aid deliveries to Syria's rebel areas .
The UN Security Council will vote Tuesday on extending for one year cross-border deliveries of humanitarian aid to Syria's opposition-held areas after Russia demanded changes to the relief effort. Since 2014, UN aid convoys have crossed the border from Turkey and Jordan -- without the approval of the Syrian government -- and are now delivering food to one million Syrians per month, on average.Russia last month said it was seeking changes to the UN resolution authorizing the cross-border aid operation, arguing that the shipments were not sufficiently monitored and that they undermined Syria's sovereignty.

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