WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The deconfliction line runs down the Euphrates River. US-led coalition forces and their Syrian militant allies are positioned on its eastern bank, while Russia-backed government troops control the western bank.
"Never has it gone down, the deconfliction line between us and the Russian forces. Never once have we called, and it not been answered. Never once have they called, and we not answered," US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during a press gaggle.
Mattis said the Daesh caliphate was "on the run" and its fighters were fleeing west. He confirmed a statement by British General Felix Gedney who said Daesh forces heading west could mount counterattacks on the coalition, saying they attacked every day.
Pentagon Admits Daesh Militants Escaped Coalition to Syria's Euphrates Valley
"Some people escaped. That's what happens in war. They moved, clearly, into the Middle Euphrates River Valley. We are in the process of crushing the life out of the caliphate there," Mattis said.
The situation with the demarcation essentially means that President Bashar Assad's army will have to deal with Daesh fighters who flee west across the river.
"This is the normal thing that happens. I mean, it's not a big issue. They'll have to be hunted down. But I seriously doubt that Assad sees this as a positive on his side, either," Mattis said.
Earlier, the US Defense Department head wrote in an article that Pentagon will work together with Russia to promote mutual interests in Syria, saying that Washington is confident that the UN-led process in Geneva "will produce a Syria that is free of Bashar al-Assad and his family."
Syria has been divided into areas controlled by government troops and those held by militant forces backed by the US-led international coalition, with Kurds commanding vast northern territories.
Mattis also told reporters at the Pentagon when asked whether Syrian government forces could disrupt US plans in Syria that "that would probably be a mistake".
When pressed to elaborate on the remark, Mattis said his comments did not constitute a warning. Rather, he said, the remark reflected the reality on the ground in Syria, where a demarcation line separates the US-led coalition from Russian-backed Syrian government troops.
Mattis Says He Does Not See 'Evolving US Military Role' in Ukraine
"No, I don't see an evolving US military role in Ukraine," Mattis said. "Right now, as you know, we have some trainers there helping to train their army to NATO standards… and that has a lot to do with making certain it serves the needs of the Ukrainian people, the way democracies’ armies do. And so, no, the US military role remains the same."
US media cited officials that the United States planned to sell lethal arms to Ukraine, including anti-tank Javelin missiles.
Russia has repeatedly warned against supplies of lethal arms to Ukraine, saying that such actions would result in escalating the conflict in the country's eastern Donbas region. Russia’s stance has also been supported by a number of European officials.