In a move that appears to have been directly precipitated by Russia’s warning about US warplanes being treated as “targets” earlier in the day, Central Command (Centcom) has announced that they are repsositioning US aircraft that are deployed inside Syria.
While Centcom cited “recent encounters” with Syrian and Russian planes, they didn’t directly draw a link between this and Russia’s own threats, which followed the US shooting down a Syrian military aircraft, and amounted to warning the US to keep its planes out of all parts of Syria except for the Kurdish territory and ISIS-held parts being contested by the Kurds. In conceding the move was about ensuring the safety of air crews, however, Centcom effectively conceded it was Russia related.
This has been a long-standing concern since both the US and Russia started having their own aerial operations inside Syria, with serious concern that they would conflict and lead to clashes. So long as they were both targeting ISIS and al-Qaeda, that risk was limited.
With the US increasingly shifting its aerial focus to attacking pro-government forces in Syria, instead of just ISIS, the risk is also growing substantially, as Russia’s comments today make it clear they don’t intend to let the US attack Syrian government targets with impunity.
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