Bradley Fighting Vehicles sent to protect US troops in eastern Syria

Although officially aimed at supporting the mission against ISIS, the deployment is also seen as a warning to Russia in the wake of recent confrontations between American and Russian military convoys

Photo: US Army/Cpl. Alisha Grezlik

The U.S. Central Command announced last Friday that it ordered the deployment of Bradley Fighting Vehicles, advanced Sentinel radar systems and other weapon systems to northeastern Syria to protect the several hundred U.S. troops remaining in the country from Islamic State attacks. 

Capt. Bill Urban, a CENTCOM spokesman, did not specify the nature of the new threat posed by ISIS that triggered this U.S. response, but noted that U.S fighter patrols have been increased over the region. "These actions are a clear demonstration of U.S. resolve to defend Coalition forces in the [Eastern Syria Security Area], and to ensure that they are able to continue their defeat-ISIS mission without interference," Urban said of the buildup.

The M2A2 Bradleys generally carry a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and TOW anti-tank missiles, while the Sentinel system can be used for counter-battery target acquisition and air defense.

Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the CENTCOM commander, other U.S. military leaders, and Iraqi national security officials have repeatedly warned that ISIS remains a threat in northeastern Syria and western and central Iraq, although President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that ISIS was "100% destroyed."

Military.com reported that at a White House news conference Friday mostly focused on the response to COVID-19, mail ballots and efforts to revive the economy, Trump again highlighted his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump noted recent peace deals between Israel, and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and said, "The Middle East is straightening out with all that's happening. We've brought a lot of our troops back, a lot of them are coming back in the very near future."

An estimated 200-500 U.S. troops remain in Syria. "We have troops guarding the oil, other than that we're out of Syria," Trump said.

The website speculated that the latest deployments, particularly of the Sentinel counter-battery radar, and the heightened air cover could also be seen as a warning to Russia. There have been several confrontations in northeastern Syria in recent months involving U.S. and Russian convoys. One of them was the August 25 incident, reported by Israel Defense, in which a Russian vehicle rammed a U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. At least four U.S. troops were injured.