An F-22 Raptor approaches a KC-10 Extender before aerial refueling during a mission on Feb. 12. (Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks/U.S. Air Force)
BAGHDAD — Senior U.S. military officials want to elevate talks with Russia about air operations over Iraq and Syria, an effort that is meant to protect pilots from collisions but complicated by concerns at the Pentagon that doing so will make it look like Washington and Moscow have begun to collaborate on the battlefield.
The talks, known as deconfliction, began in 2015 after the Russian military deployed forces to Khmeimim Air Base, a military installation along Syria’s Mediterranean coastline that has been used to launch airstrikes against opposition forces in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Russia’s arrival in Syria complicated U.S.-led operations against the Islamic State military group in Syria, which began a year earlier.
An agreement signed between Washington and Moscow in fall 2015 called for the use of specific communication frequencies and the establishment of a phone hotline in which a U.S. colonel in Qatar and a Russian counterpart in Syria “deconflict” operations regularly but do not share intelligence. When there are points of contention between the two militaries, though, the existing arrangement has not left many options for U.S. officers, said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the top Air Force commander in the Middle East.
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WNU Editor: Why now the need for talks now? Hmmmm .... there must have been a few close calls that we (the public) have not been told of yet..