US troops clashed this week with an Assad regime unit in northeast Syria, an incident that illustrates the uneasy patchwork of power in the region. One regime soldier was reportedly killed and two wounded. No US personnel were injured, according to a Pentagon Central Command spokesman. Central Command said a joint convoy of US personnel and Kurdish forces were fired upon near the city of Qamishli in Hasakah province Aug. 18: “Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces, conducting a routine anti-ISIS security patrol near Tal Al-Zahab, Syria, encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian regime forces. After receiving safe passage from the pro-regime forces, the patrol came under small arms fire from individuals in the vicinity of the checkpoint. Coalition troops returned fire in self-defense.”
The statement said US helicopters were overhead on escort duty but did not carry out air-strikes. The regime’s SANA news agency gave a different version of events, claiming the US patrol “opened several rounds of fire” when it was prevented from passing the checkpoint. The SANA account said that the regime casualties occurred when “after about 30 minutes, two US warplanes attacked the army personnel at the checkpoint with heavy machine guns.”
An opposition source identified the slain soldier as a member of the regime’s 54th Regiment.
Kurdish autonomous authorities, with the US-backed SDF, have controlled much of northeast Syria since removing the Islamic State between 2017 and 2019. However, the Assad regime, supported by Russia, also occupied part of the area as ISIS was defeated.
Convoys have regularly passed through checkpoints with few clashes. But in February, one man was killed and another injured in a similarly confused incident, also near Qamishli, when Russian and Assad regime troops surrounded a US convoy. Over the course of the war, there have been only a handful of times that the US has engaged Assad forces (EA Worldview)
Photo: QalaatM via Twitter