On March 8, three US military officials told CNN network that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies are massing their troops on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, on the same positions from which they had launched their attack against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on February 7.
Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said that the US-led coalition is not seeking a military confrontation with the SAA. However, he stressed that the coalition will respond to any attack on its positions.
“[US-led] Coalition forces will not hesitate to protect themselves when they are threatened … Coalition forces maintain good situational awareness of military developments throughout Syria and take appropriate force protection measures to ensure our forces are safe and can carry out their combat missions to rid Syria of ISIS,” Maj. Rankine-Galloway told CNN.
The US-led coalition responded to the alleged SAA attack on February 7 with heavy airstrikes that led to the death of dozens of pro-government fighters. According to the US-led coalition, the SAA attack was aimed at capturing the strategic CONICO gas facility, which had been seized by the SDF from ISIS in late 2017.
CNN’s report suggested that the SAA might be trying to take advantage of the fact that the SDF had redeployed large forces from eastern Syria to the Afrin area few days ago. However, Syrian pro-government activists doubted that the SAA could launch a second attack similar to the one that failed on February 7 and even from the same positions.