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    US forces are seen at the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) headquarters after it was hit by Turkish airstrikes in Mount Karachok near Malikiya, Syria April 25, 2017.

    'Not Our Mission' to Provoke Syrian Government Forces, US-Led Coalition Says

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    Middle East
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State terror group* in Iraq and Syria does not consider it a mission to provoke Syrian government troops and has only ever combated them in self defense, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon told Sputnik.

    "That is not our mission," Dillon said in a phone interview from Baghdad on Thursday when asked whether the coalition would seek to avoid provoking Syrian forces. "There have been times when we have engaged with Syrian forces. All of those were strictly in self-defense."

    Dillon also said that the United States forces have contacted their Russian counterparts to discuss a buildup of pro-Syrian government forces near a US-led coalition base in eastern Syria.

    "We have seen a slow buildup of forces on the eastern side of the Euphrates River," Dillon said in a phone interview from Baghdad on Thursday. "We have communicated this to our Russian counterparts in Syria…. Our intent is to number one, de-escalate this through dialogue."

    The pro-Syrian government troops are amassing near Deir ez-Zor in the same area where pro-government forces attempted to attack the US-led coalition in February.

    Dillon said the coalition would not hesitate to defend itself if it came under threat from the amassing forces.

    "We have made it very clear in the past by action and also by our verbal dialogue through the deconfliction line that we will defend ourselves," Dillon said.

    Speaking further, Dillon said senior Russian and US commanders in Syria had spoken over the phone around 10 times over the past year as part of efforts to avoid any strategic mishaps between their forces.

    "Lt. Gen. Paul Funk and Lt. Gen. Stephen Towsend before him, they would have routine calls with the overall commander, Russian commander in Syria," Dillon said in a phone interview from Baghdad. "Since June or July timeframe, I think that those have happened maybe 10 times."

    On February 7, the US-led coalition said it had carried out defensive airstrikes against pro-government forces in Syria that had attacked the headquarters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) east of the Euphrates River.

    US officials later said that at least 100 Syrian pro-government troops were killed in the confrontation, while no coalition troops were killed or wounded.

    *Terror organisation, also known as Daesh, IS, ISIL or ISIS; Banned in Russia and many other countries.


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