U.S. coalition forces in Syria launched a massive counterattack in response to an assault by pro-regime militia on Wednesday, in an impressive display of firepower that also shows how precarious the American position has become.
The retaliatory strike came after fighters loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assaulted a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters located in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where American troops are embedded in an “advise, assist, and accompany” capacity, officials said.
The U.S.-led coalition responded with a barrage of artillery and air strikes, hitting the pro-regime fighters with gunships, fighter jets and Marine Corps artillery, reports Fox News. An estimated 100 pro-Assad fighters were killed over a three-hour bombardment, while the U.S. coalition sustained just one casualty, an injured SDF fighter.
It was a lopsided tactical victory, but one that illustrated the increasing danger of U.S. and Syrian forces coming into direct conflict as the war against the Islamic State in Syria winds down. U.S. warplanes have shot down Syrian aircraft involved in attacks on coalition forces on previous occasions. But Wednesday’s clash was easily the largest between the U.S. military and the pro-Syrian regime alliance since 2015, when U.S troops began deploying to Syria to support Kurdish and Arab militia fighting ISIS.
U.S. military commanders insist the continued presence of American forces in Syria supports a narrowly defined campaign to defeat the remnants of ISIS. Last month, however, the Trump administration laid out an ambitious plan for a post-ISIS Syria that requires a long-term military presence to transition away from Assad’s rule and counter Iranian influence in the country. (RELATED: Trump’s Plan For Syria Is Probably Illegal And Just About Nobody Cares)