US announces military exercise in Syria after Russia warns of possible attack

US announces military exercise in Syria after Russia warns of possible attack
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U.S. and anti-ISIS coalition forces kicked off a military exercise Friday near a garrison in southeastern Syria, U.S. Central Command announced.

“Our forces will demonstrate the capability to deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces, and conduct a rapid exfiltration anywhere in the [Operation Inherent Resolve] combined joint operations area,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for Central Command, said in a statement.

“Exercises like this bolster our defeat-ISIS capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces,” he added.


The exercise comes after Russia reportedly warned the United States that it and Syrian government forces are prepared to launch an attack near the base.

Tensions in Syria have been running high as the Syrian government prepares an offensive on the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.

Citing several unnamed U.S. defense officials, CNN reported Thursday that Russia warned the U.S. military twice in the last week that its forces and Syrian government units are prepared to attack militants near al Tanf.

Al Tanf is home to a U.S military outpost where U.S. forces train local partners to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The base is located near Syria’s border with Iraq and Jordan and is seen as a key strategic post to curb Iran’s regional influence.

The United States enforces a so-called deconfliction zone of 55 kilometers around the base and has conducted airstrikes on Iran-backed pro-government forces when they got near the garrison in the past.

The exercise announced Friday involved an aerial assault by a company-sized dismounted element, according to a news release. The forces will also conduct a live-fire rehearsal before leaving the deconfliction zone around al Tanf, the release added.

The coalition is “deconflicting” the exercise with Russia using the established communications line “intended to prevent miscommunications or escalations in tension,” the release said.

The deconfliction telephone line was established shortly after Moscow intervened in Syria’s civil war to prevent a military clash between the United States and Russia. Earlier this year, though, U.S. forces bombed and killed hundreds of Russian mercenaries when they crossed a deconfliction zone in Deir el-Zour. But U.S. officials have maintained the communications line did not fail in that instance because the incident did not involve Russian government forces.