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United States moves rocket launcher into Syria for the first time

15 June 2017

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that regime forces changed direction in the north of Syria, and are now advancing towards the countryside of southern Raqqa, after completely controlling towns and villages in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

HIMARS had been previously used to strike ISIS targets from firing positions in Turkey and Jordan. The HIMARS had already been deployed in northern Syria with USA -backed forces battling Islamic State militants, he added. The area, also just northeast of the Jordanian border, is used by US-backed forces as a training and staging area for attacks against IS.

While troops at At Tarif are primarily there to support the fight against ISIS, tensions and conflict have been rising with pro-regime forces in the area.

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There have also two airstrikes against pro-regime militia positions in the zone around At Tarif, with another happening in May.

Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the USA -led coalition fighting against Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, denied troops had set up a new base.

"We have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat that is presented by the pro-regime forces", Dillon added. Its movement to the Tanf area brings significant military power to an area recently in the spotlight due to several coalition strikes against pro-Syrian regime forces and the downing of a pro-regime drone by the United States on June 8. While the pro-regime artillery could not reach the base, it could reach a smaller combat outpost used by coalition advisers and their local allies.

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According to Reuters, rebels in Syria said that the expansion of USA footprint in Syria's southeastern desert increases the risk of direct ground confrontation between the Americans and Iran-backed pro-regime forces.

The U.S. -backed Syrian rebels in the area are in competition with pro-government forces who are also trying to recapture territory from Islamic State.

Privately, U.S. military officials say they are hopeful matters will remain calm and no more U.S. military action will be required.

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"Those are self-defense strikes, and the commander on the ground has the authority to take whatever action necessary, and I support that", U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

United States moves rocket launcher into Syria for the first time