The commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) General Michael “Erik” Kurilla has paid a surprise visit to al-Tanf garrison in Syria’s southeastern region.
The CENTCOM announced the visit on July 16, without clarifying when exactly it took place. During the visit, Gen. Kurilla met with militants from the Revolutionary Commando Army (MaT), the US-led coalition’s main proxy in al-Tanf, and inspected a compound that was targeted by the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in June.
“Gen. Kurilla spoke with MaT fighters at their compound which was struck by Russian fighter jets on June 7th and since repaired. The fighters assured the CENTCOM commander they remain undeterred and ready to fight,” the CENTCOM said on Twitter.
The Russian airstrikes, which were prepensely thought to have taken place on June 16, were reportedly a response to an attack by MaT militants that resulted in Russian military casualties. The US-led coalition was alerted ahead of the airstrikes, which caused material losses only.
Around 200 US troops and some 300 militants of the MaT are usually present at the garrison, which blocks a strategic highway that links the Syrian capital, Damascus, with the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
The US-led coalition maintains a 55 kilometers no-fly zone around the garrison. Despite this, VKS warplanes conduct reconnaissance sorties over the area on a regular basis.
Gen. Kurilla was the second senior US officer to visit al-Tanf garrison after the Russian airstrikes. Brigadier Karl Harris, Deputy Commanding General of the US-led coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve, paid a visit to the garrison late in June.
Recently, Russia and Syria accused the US-led coalition of sheltering and training terrorists in al-Tanf 55-kilometer zone. Terrorists trained there were allegedly sent to Syria’s central region to fight government forces with ISIS cells. There was also claims about some of them leaving all the way to Ukraine to fight against the Russian military that is currently conducting a special operation there. The coalition is yet to address these allegations.
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