The Pentagon has finally broken its silence about an Aug. 25 collision between U.S. and Russian vehicles in Syria more than a day videos of the encounter taken from the Russians’ perspective flooded social media.
“On Tuesday, Russian forces breached our de-confliction arrangement in Syria and injured U.S. service members with their deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement on Thursday, three days after the incident. “Our military deconflicts operations in time and space with Russian forces in Syria to protect the force and mitigate risk of unintended escalation.”
Seven U.S. troops were injured in the encounter and all have since been returned to duty, Task & Purpose has learned.
As so often happens in Syria, the first information that the American public received of the confrontation between Russian and U.S. troops came from a video posted on Twitter, not a Defense Department statement.
The video was taken from inside a Russian vehicle that rammed a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle that was part of a U.S. military patrol.
Other videos subsequently emerged that appeared to show a Russian helicopter hovering low over U.S. troops in Syria in a possible attempt to disperse them.
As the Russian footage of the encounter went viral on Wednesday, Defense officials remained deathly quiet about what had happened. Finally, a National Security Council spokesman acknowledged on Wednesday afternoon that the incident had taken place near Dayrick in northeast Syria.
It wasn’t until Thursday that the Pentagon tried to get into the information war by issuing a lukewarm statement that admonished the Russians.
“We have advised the Russians that their behavior was dangerous and unacceptable,” Hoffman said. “We expect a return to routine and professional deconfliction in Syria and reserve the right to defend our forces vigorously whenever their safety is put at risk.”
U.S. military officials have consistently said little to nothing about Russian troops harassing U.S. service members in Syria.
After a video emerged last month showing Russian military vehicles blocking a U.S. convoy in Syria, the deputy commander for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS told reporters that the Russians were mostly following the rules about how both countries’ forces should interact.
“What you might call harassment, which is, you know, less than absolute professional conduct between the Russians and the U.S., occurs on rare occasions,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman said during a July 22 Pentagon news briefing. “It’s very rare that a misunderstanding triggers some higher emotions or some sort of harassment between the two sets of forces.”