The U.S. military announced on Friday that it is deploying a small number of Bradley armored vehicles, Sentinel radar equipment, and about 100 additional troops to northeastern Syria.
The redeployment is meant to strengthen and protect the U.S.-led coalition, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is fighting ISIS.
The move, coupled with the increased frequency of fighter jet patrols over U.S. forces in Syria, is also designed as a show of presence and a deterrent against further Russian military moves in the coalition’s area of operations. This was highlighted by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban.
“These actions are a clear demonstration of U.S. resolve to defend Coalition forces in the [Eastern Syria Security Area] and to ensure that they are able to continue their Defeat-ISIS mission without interference,” Urban said in a statement. “The Defense Department has previously deployed Bradleys to northeast Syria pursuant to these goals.”
“The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend Coalition forces if necessary,” Urban added.
The additional troops will include six Bradley Fighting Vehicles and about 100 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas. They will be deployed in support of “Operation Spartan Shield” and will operate in northeast Syria on a 90-day deployment. The Sentinel radar system will be used to help detect and counter enemy drones and missiles.
The U.S.-led coalition “plans to position mechanized infantry units, including Bradley Fighting Vehicles, to Syria to ensure the protection of Coalition forces and preserve their freedom of movement so they may continue [to] defeat Daesh (ISIS) operations safely,” Col. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement.
The U.S. had deployed Bradley Fighting Vehicles from the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team to Syria in October 2019. It later withdrew them later when planned joint patrols with Turkish units never materialized.
Last month several American soldiers were injured when a Russian vehicle collided purposely with an American one. This is just the latest incident involving the two superpowers. But it is hardly the worst.
Back in February 2018, hundreds of heavily-armed Russian private military contractors from the Wagner Group — in essence, Russian troops but with built-in deniability — equipped with tanks and artillery, attacked a joint U.S. and SDF base. The U.S. conducted airstrikes with fighters and AC-130 gunships decimating the assault, killing up to 300 of the Russian Wagner contractors.
“These actions and reinforcements are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual deconfliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional unsafe and provocative actions in northeast Syria,” a U.S. official said to the media in reference to the deployment.
CENTCOM commander General Frank McKenzie said that the U.S. will continue to conduct security patrols with the SDF. Yet, he added that the SDF is carrying out the majority of the tactical operations and actual fighting. “Those patrols are always conducted with our SDF partners. You’ll never see a U.S. element out there moving alone, it will always have SDF affiliated [units] with it when they move.”
“The op tempo is pretty high up there and they’re pretty active,” he added.
The U.S. military believes that Russia wants to seize Syria’s oil and gas resources and that it is constantly trying to push coalition and SDF troops away from the oil fields. Putin’s government has protested efforts by the Syrian Kurds to develop the oil fields claiming them to be illegal.