- Russian and US troops are working with Kurdish YPG fighters to combat ISIS
- A defense expert warns that ‘escalation is bound to happen’ between troops
- US Central Command said, however, that military commanders are working together to avoid accidental casualties and inadvertently striking one another
- Russia wants an ‘alliance’ with the US and to be ‘recognized as an equal partner’
- During the first two weeks of March, the troops worked together to stop the Turkish army from entering Manbij, a town in the Aleppo region of Syria
The two nations are working together with Kurdish YPG fighters in the country to combat ISIS in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Though the countries’ commanders are in contact, the Pentagon stopped military-to-military cooperation following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
Recently the forces ‘have converged literally within hand-grenade range of one another’, warned Army Lt. Gen. Steven Townsend, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
‘Escalation is bound to happen,’ Andreas Krieg, a professor at the Defense Studies Department at King’s College London, told NBC News.
US Central Command said, however, that military commanders are working together to avoid accidental casualties and inadvertently striking one another.
Russia wants ‘an alliance between Russia and the United States in fighting terrorism, and to be recognized as an equal partner with the United States’, Igor Sutyagin, a senior research fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, told NBC.
He said an alliance would strengthen its ‘international standing as a power and its position with its own people’.
Kreig added that US and Russian interests in the Middle East are ‘overlapping to a huge extent’.
‘Fighting ISIS and fighting the jihadis is absolutely the first priority of the [Donald] Trump administration,’ he told NBC News. ‘This is why [Defense Secretary James] Mattis is going so hardcore after ISIS. And almost everything goes as long as they are fighting jihadis at the same time.’
As of last month, there were approximately 1,000 US troops fighting on the ground, while there are between 1,600 and 4,500 Russian troops in the same area.
US commanders are weighing the possibility of deploying hundreds more troops, and the Pentagon this week announced it had provided artillery support and choppered local forces behind enemy lines in a bid to seize a strategic dam.
During the first two weeks of March, the troops worked together to stop the Turkish army from entering Manbij, a town in the Aleppo region of Syria.
A witness told NBC that he saw Russian, Syrian and US troops all within three miles from one another at separate bases near the town on March 12.
Before teaming up with Kurdish fighters, US and Russian troops were on different sides of the Syrian civil war.