A recent incident points out the potential challenges from the “fog of war”.
With American, Russian, Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Iranian forces, Turkish forces, ISIS and others operating in the close confines of Syria, there is a real possibility that a miscalculation or error might lead to a wider conflict.
Indeed, one only needs to look to a recent confrontation between U.S. forces and the Syrian regime in eastern Ghouta to see the potential danger. In the ensuing battle, U.S. forces killed approximately 100 regime fighters. While there were no Russian forces present at the battle, there is always a danger that there might be an inadvertent confrontation if both sides are not careful.
The Pentagon points out that the United States and Russia maintain a deconfliction line to ensure that American forces and the Kremlin’s don’t come into direct contact.
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“The deconfliction communication line with Russia is constantly used,” defense secretary James Mattis told reporters on Feb. 11. “We keep each other informed. The Russians profess that they were not aware when we called about that force that had crossed, and it came closer. They were notified when the firing began. That’s when we heard there were no Russians there. And we go out of our way to ensure that we do not endanger the Russians, as you know.”
Mattis took pains to emphasize that deconfliction is not the same as coordination.