A U.S. Central Command officer has stated that a U.S. coalition airstrike that allegedly fell on Syrian soldiers could have been prevented if the Russian military was more open and forthcoming with intelligence from the area. The Russian military claims that Syrian soldiers were stationed at the Deir el-Zour site when the airstrikes began. Col. John Thomas states that the Russian military issued a request for the coalition to halt the airstrikes but that it was “a little bit cryptic” and was not issued to the proper officer. Thomas when on to point out that, after the Russians called back and spoke with the right officer, the airstrike was ceased in less than five minutes.
The U.S. led coalition monitored the site for two day before commencing the airstrike. It is still unclear whether or not Syrian forces where the accidental targets of the airstrike. U.S. officials state that the men in the area were armed but were not wearing uniforms, making it easy for their identities to be confused with ISIS fighters. Other officials, that spoke only on the condition that they would remain anonymous, believe the men could have been conscripted troops or prisoners being used by terrorist organizations.
Thomas issued an official statement defending the coalitions actions. He said:
“We did take a couple of days to look at it, to develop the target, and the decision was made by the decision authority that it was a good target, looking at all of the intelligence and considering it. So the decision was not made on the spur of the moment, Our best indications are that that process was followed. What may or may not have been flawed, or what we may or may not have had wrong on that, is what the investigating officer will look at.”
The airstrike consisted of aircraft from the U.S. Britain, Denmark and Australia and carried out a “good number” of airstrikes before it was halted. The U.S. military is appointing a brigadier general to investigate the incident.