When Russia Called to Get US to Stop Syria Strike, US Official Wasn’t There

Pentagon: Contact 'Wasn't Expecting a Call'

by Jason Ditz, September 20, 2016

Weekend US airstrikes against a Syrian army base in Deir Ezzor, a protracted error which killed 83 Syrian soldiers and opened up the base for ISIS to overrun it, carried on longer than it should have, because when Russia made the call to warn the Americans, the guy who was supposed to answer it wasn’t there.

The Russian military called and asked to speak to this “point of contact” official at the coordinating center which is running the US-led bombing campaigns in Syria, and were told he wasn’t available. The Russians called back again and finally got somebody who understood that the US was bombing the wrong target.

The Pentagon dismissed concern about the lapse, saying the contact “wasn’t expecting a call” and therefore didn’t feel obliged to sit next to the phone. Yet as intense US airstrikes were ongoing, in the middle of a US-Russia negotiated ceasefire, it seems like it wasn’t a total shock that a call ended up made.

Russian officials have mostly complained about the lack of coordination before the attack, with the US only describing what they intended to bomb in vague terms as a bunch of ISIS fighters “out in the open.” Russian officials have noted that if the US would tell them exactly what they intended to bomb, they’d be able to tell them if it was actually a Syrian military base, and not ISIS at all.

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