The Department of Defense has remained relatively tight-lipped on the February 7 firefight that saw U.S. military personnel deliver a kinetic spanking to hundreds of Russian mercenaries and Syrian pro-regime fighters in eastern Syria.
But a new report from the New York Times provides a riveting tick-tock filled with new details about how the four-hour battle played out, based on Pentagon “interviews and documents” that, taken together, comprise “the Pentagon’s first public on-the-ground accounting of one of the single bloodiest battles the American military has faced in Syria” since the start of the anti-ISIS campaign there in 2014, as the article put it.
Here are the juiciest bits.
- The American forces: The U.S. military contingent consisted of 30 soldiers culled from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta and 75th Ranger Regiment deployed under Joint Special Operations Command in an advise-and-assist role to help out Kurdish forces near a crucial Conoco gas plant. According to the New York Times, that team was supported by a platoon of infantry Marines and Army Special Forces personnel feeding surveillance and reconnaissance information to the soldiers 20 miles away at the Conoco outpost.
- The calm before the storm: Over the course of the day on February 7, that contingent of 30 Delta Force and Ranger soldiers was gradually encircled by more than 500 pro-regime fighters and 27 vehicles ranging from a trio of Russian-made T-72 main battle tanks to armored personnel. Observing the build-up through the ever-ubiquitous drones in the skies overhead, the Marines and Green Berets at the support site began putting together a quick-reaction force with a handful of MRAPs should the tensions at the Conoco outpost escalate.
- Sh*t hits the fan: Around 10pm on February 7th, the joint Russian and Syrian force began bombarding the Conoco outpost with artillery and mortar rounds as the U.S. service members returned fire with Javelin anti-tank missiles. “The air was filled with dust and shrapnel,” the New York Times reports. “For the first 15 minutes, American military officials called their Russian counterparts and urged them to stop the attack. When that failed, American troops fired warning shots at a group of vehicles and a howitzer.”