ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the regime in Syria “would be wise to avoid areas” where coalition forces are operating, and warned that the US is ready to send warplanes to defend its forces.
Cook was speaking to reporters on Tuesday when he was asked if the US has established a de-facto no-fly zone over northeast Syria to stop regime warplanes from bombing areas where coalition troops have been operating in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“It would be wise (for Syrian regime warplanes) to avoid areas where coalition forces have been operating. And we will continue to defend them and if need be we will send aircraft again to defend ourselves,” he said.
Asked if that meant defending the SDF, Cook simply reiterated the US commitment to supporting coalition forces and their partners in operations against ISIS.
In spite of clashes in Hasakah with regime forces, Cook made clear that the US was not going to support the Kurds against the regime in the current battles.
“Our fight and focus is with ISIL (ISIS)” Cook explained. “And we’ll continue to conduct ourselves on the ground in those partnered operations focused on ISIL. And we’ll continue to take steps that we need to make sure that our forces remain as safe as possible in that effort.”
Last Thursday, Syrian warplanes bombed the Syrian Kurds for the first time in the city of Hasakah, amid clashes between Kurds and regime forces there. The bombs landed near US commandos who are there assisting the Kurds in their war against ISIS. The US responded by scrambling stealthy F-22 Raptor jet fighters, which arrived over Hasakah just as the bombers left.
On Friday two Syrian aircraft tried to fly over Hasakah but diverted course after two US F-22s came within one mile of them.
Syrian airstrikes and artillery bombardments in Hasakah have caused thousands of civilians in the city to evacuate.