U.S. bolsters protection of forces in Syria as tensions climb

World Monday 10/April/2017 21:41 PM
By: Times News Service
U.S. bolsters protection of forces in Syria as tensions climb

Washington: The United States has made slight adjustments to its military activities in Syria to strengthen protection of American forces following cruise missile strikes last week on a Syrian air base that heightened tensions, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday.
The officials, citing the need to safeguard operations in Syria, declined to specify what exact measures the United States has taken after the strikes, which Damascus, Tehran and Moscow have roundly condemned. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
Asked about the Reuters report, a U.S. military spokesman later told a Pentagon news briefing that the U.S. commander for the campaign has been "calling in the resources that he needs" to protect U.S. forces in the wake of the strikes.
The spokesman, Colonel John Thomas, also said U.S. strikes in Syria had become more defensive and acknowledged the pace had slowed somewhat since last Friday. "I don't think that is going to last for very long, but that is up to (Lieutenant General Stephen) Townsend," Thomas said, stressing there had been no attempts by Syria or its allies to retaliate against U.S. troops so far.
President Donald Trump ordered the cruise missile strike on Syria's Shayrat air base last week in response to what Washington and its allies say was a poison gas attack by Syria's military in which scores of civilians died. The chemical weapons attack killed at least 70 people, many of them children, in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun.
The Syrian government has denied it was behind the assault. Moscow says there is no proof that the Syrian military carried out the attack, and called the U.S. missile strike an act of aggression that violated international law.
A joint command centre made up of the forces of Russia, Iran and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad on Sunday said the U.S. strike crossed "red lines" and it would respond to any new aggression.
Unlike in Iraq, where U.S. forces are battling the IS at the invitation of Iraq's government, Washington is waging air strikes in Syria against the militants without the permission of Damascus. The United States is believed to have about 1,000 forces on the ground, mainly advising and training local Kurdish and militia to battle IS, with an eye on eventually capturing its Syria stronghold of Raqqa.
To avoid accidentally clashing with Russian forces, who are fighting in support of Assad, the United States has had an agreement that allows for the two militaries to communicate.