The Pentagon is strongly disputing Russia’s claim of a joint combat mission against Islamic State targets in Syria.
On Monday, the Russian defense ministry claimed to have received coordinates of Islamic State positions via a US-Russian communications channel, and that two jets from the US-led coalition participated in a strike alongside Russian aircraft.
But the Pentagon, now helmed by Trump’s appointee James Mattis, issued a round denial of the Russian account.
“The Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria,” said spokesman Eric Pahon, who added that he was not aware of any coalition member aiding Russia in this instance.
The Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria. DoD maintains a channel of communication with the Russian military focused solely on ensuring the safety of aircrews and de-confliction of Coalition and Russian operations in Syria.
U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, denounced the Russian claim as “propaganda.”
The Daily Beast suggests the whole story began on Monday with a “vague and misleading tweet by the Associated Press that was apparently based in part on a misreading of reports by Russian state media.”
There was a massive airstrike against ISIS targets in the Deir ez-Zor province of Syria, as the Daily Beast explains, but the Russian government did not say planes from the U.S. or its coalition partners were involved. That implication was made in a later report by RIA Novosti, in the form of a confusing reference to the “channel of communication” between Russian and Coalition commanders, which gives either side the ability to declare certain areas off-limits because it has warplanes currently operating in the area.
The Russian government has done little to shoot down the resulting flurry of headlines about joint operations.