The US military again launched airstrikes against forces loyal to the Syrian government after they entered the “deconfliction zone” near At Tanf in southeastern Syria. The US military is training Free Syrian Army-branded militias in the area to battle the Islamic State.
Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led coalition created to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, announced today that “pro-Syrian regime forces” entered the “deconfliction zone with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers” and posed a threat to forces based there. American, British and Norwegian special forces are known to be operating at the At Tanf Garrison.
CJTF-OIR stated it issued multiple warnings before it destroyed “two artillery pieces and an anti-aircraft weapon” and damaged a tank.
The name of the “pro-Syrian regime forces” that were targeted today was not disclosed. Several pro-Syrian regime militias, including Hezbollah, the Sayyid al Shuhada Brigades, the Imam Ali Brigades, and the Abu Fadl al Abbas Brigades operate in the area.
Today’s strike is the second against pro-Syrian government forces in the At Tanf area. On May 18, US aircraft struck militias after they entered the deconfliction zone. The Sayyid al Shuhada Brigades claimed it was targeted in the airstrikes and said that one of its fighters was killed, while six more were wounded.
The Sayyid al Shuhada Brigades, the Imam Ali Brigades, and Hezbollah Brigades all belong to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force, the grouping of Iraqi militias that was formed to battle the Islamic State. All three militias are backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force.
Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force, which was recently elevated as an official independent security institution by the government, is led by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, who is listed by the US government as a specially designated global terrorist. In the designation, the US noted that Muhandis is a senior adviser to Qods Force leader Qassem Soleimani.
Tensions near the At Tanf crossing have risen over the past several months, as warring groups seek to control the southeastern border crossing. Iranian-back militias have clashed with US-backed Free Syrian Army-branded militias for control of the nearby Zaza junction. As the Islamic State’s presence along the Iraqi border shrinks, both sides are seeking to expand their influence along the borders.