A pair of US F-22 Raptor warplanes were scrambled into the area around the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh to confront Syrian Su-24 fighters and chase them away from the contested city, which is the site of ongoing fighting between Syrian Army and Kurdish YPG forces.
The deployments were presented as being done to protect US ground troops operating in the province, though the indications are that airstrikes in Hasakeh centered on fighting inside the city, and not any place US troops were known to be deployed.
Pentagon officials warned that Syria is at risk of having their planes shot down if they continue to fly in the area, however, where according to reports on the ground the Kurdish forces are attempting to gain full control over the city, and chase the Syrian military out of what districts it once held.
The fighting on the ground over the city has been intense, but neither Kurdish nor Syrian ground forces are likely to win on their own without air support. What remains to be seen is if the US deployments over the city are a prelude to airstrikes against government forces there.
It’s not far-fetched, as a number of US officials have been pressing for the war against ISIS to be abandoned in Syria in favor of a war against the Syrian government. The US seems to be looking to use the new fighting with the Kurdish allies as a pretext to that end.
Whether they can actually do that is another matter, however, as it would be expected that if the US started seriously attacking Syrian warplanes and bombing ground targets, future Syrian flights in the area could bring a Russian escort, betting that the US won’t risk starting a direct shooting war with the Russians. That too seems to be an open-ended question, as some US officials are eager to confront Russia as well.
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