(Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB/Fkickr)
US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief, General Michael Kurilla, said on 16 March that the Russian air force has increased the frequency of “unprofessional” and “unsafe” flyovers of US occupation bases in Syria.
“They fly over our bases with ground attack aircraft with weapons on them in an attempt to try to be provocative,” Kurilla said, calling the flyovers “unsafe, unprofessional, and not what we expect of a professional air force.”
Around 900 US troops are still deployed in the Levantine nation, controlling nearly a third of the country and a large portion of its oil fields. Their deployment is illegal under international law as it was not approved by the government in Damascus and was launched by abusing Washington’s Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).
Contrary to the illegal US occupation and their hijacking of Syria’s resources, the Russian army has been present since 2015 after Damascus requested military assistance to push back against ISIS and other US-sponsored extremist groups.
Kurilla aired his grievances just one week after CENTCOM deputy commander Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich told reporters that Russian warplanes are being “shadowed” to make sure “they’re not putting our forces at risk on the ground.”
“They fly into the airspace that is nominally under the deconfliction protocols, supposed to be where we are primarily operating, and the Russians are not,” he added.
Grynkewich also claimed Russian forces have sent reconnaissance aircraft near US positions in Syria and wondered, “Why aren’t [they] collecting [intel] on ISIS?”
Despite US claims that it is committed to the defeat of ISIS, earlier this month Al-Monitor noted: “Nearly four years after the [ISIS] defeat on the battlefield, some 10,000 suspected fighters from the group remain in makeshift prisons under [US-proxy militia] control, with not even a hint of international political will to establish war crimes tribunals on the horizon.”
US planners previously welcomed the growth of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. An August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report had made clear that Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al-Qaeda were the driving forces of the US and Gulf-backed insurgency against the Syrian government and that the US and its regional allies supported the establishment of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria as part of the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad and divide the country.
For 18 months after the declaration of the so-called Caliphate, US planners took no action against ISIS, allowing the group to threaten Baghdad and Damascus.