Pro-Syrian forces staying in border area despite U.S. warnings

Elias Hubbard
June 4, 2017

Forces outside the deconfliction zone are continuing to mass and are actively patrolling the area, he said.

A copy of the leaflets provided to Reuters by the Pentagon told the Iran-backed fighters that any movement toward the At Tanf garrison "will be seen as hostile intent and we will defend our forces".

Field sources reported on Monday that simultaneous with the rapid advances of the Syrian Army troops towards al-Tanf border-crossing the US-led coalition warplanes dropped thousands of leaflets over the army-controlled region calling on them to retreat from Southern Syria.

"There are about a couple hundred both coalition forces and our partnered forces [near al-Tanf]".

The remarks by a Baghdad-based spokesman for the USA -led coalition battling Islamic State was the latest sign of tension in the region, where the United States has forces at the base around the Syrian town of At Tanf supporting local fighters.

In addition to the small group of fighters inside the non-conflict area, the coalition is also concerned about a growing formation of the militia on the edge of the zone, Dillon said. Force protection at the remote base has been a primary concern, according to officials at U.S. Central Command.

On May 18, coalition jets launched a strike against a pro-regime convoy that had trespassed into the deconfliction zone after that convoy refused to react to a show-of-force flyover and warning shots.

Now, the USA has used its deconfliction channel to communicate with the Russians once again that it wants those forces out of the zone, Dillon said.

The U.S. military has praised the Iran-backed Shiite PMU for its contribution in the ongoing fight to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul, considered ISIS's last major bastion in Iraq.

The warnings were included in 90,000 brightly-colored leaflets the USA dropped in the area over the weekend.

Iran is seeking to secure influence throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, creating what has been dubbed the "Shia crescent".

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is reportedly trying to form a predominantly Sunni Arab coalition against Iran. To combat this threat, the United States and its allies are now showing more support for the Syrian rebels by sending them more arms to try to fend off a new push into the southeast by Iran-backed militias. CENTCOM contends these groups are anti-ISIS fighters, but in the past they have fought against the Assad regime.

Reuters had previously reported on the leaflet drop, citing Hammurabi Justice, a website linked to US -backed Syrian rebel forces known as the Maghawir al Thwra group. It is "difficult to say why there have not been any kinetic actions again", Coffey told Military Times. "When the time is right, ground commanders will act".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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