US forces in Syria narrowly averted another clash with Russian mercenaries like one last month that left more than 100 opposing fighters dead, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday.
Mattis told reporters that “Russian elements” moved across a deconfliction line into an area on the eastern side of the Euphrates river where the sides had previously agreed they could operate, he said.
But he said they came “too close” to positions of US soldiers in the area.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, contacted his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, about the incursion.
“And those elements fell back so we have also drawn off slightly to maintain the deconfliction between the elements there,” he said.
“So it seems that this time, it was resolved through the deconfliction communication line,” he added.
Mattis did not give a precise date for the incident, but on Thursday the Pentagon issued a brief statement noting that Dunford and Gerasimov had held talks on Syria and other matters of mutual interest.
According to a US official, the Russian mercenaries have been moving into an area near Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria.
It was when they began digging firing positions that the US troops deployed in the area along side their Syrian Democratic Force allies became concerned, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The incident comes less than two months after an attack in the same area on the headquarters of the SDF, an alliance of US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters.
US soldiers were in the building and alerted the US-led coalition, which responded with an air strike that killed 100 to 200 fighters, including numerous Russians.
Evoking that attack, Mattis noted that it was led by “Russian mercenaries.” It was the first time that he directly accused Russia of involvement.
Ben Carson ranted about ‘big, hairy men’ invading women’s shelters in meeting with staff: report
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development unleashed an anti-transgender rant to staffers, complaining that "big, hairy men" are trying to infiltrate women's shelters in America.
The remarks come after Carson suggested that society no longer understands the difference between women and men while visiting HUD's office in San Francisco, California.
Former four-star general speculates whistleblower scandal could involve Trump giving Putin an American
It remains unclear exactly what were the issues cited by the whistleblower who expressed concern at actions of President Donald Trump as a threat to national security, at least one of which involved a promise the president allegedly made in a phone call with a foreign leader.
But former Gen. Barry McCaffrey had a chilling thought about what it could possibly be — and posted his speculation on Twitter:
SHEER SPECULATION. Is it possible that the WHISTLEBLOWER issue was Trump discussing with Putin handing over our former US Ambassador to Moscow Mike McFaul to Russian authorities? https://t.co/0PnQn0upiA
House Judiciary Committee considering vote to hold Corey Lewandowski in contempt of Congress: report
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the House Judiciary Committee is considering a vote to hold President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in contempt of Congress, after a lengthy hearing on Wednesday in which Lewandowski aggressively attacked members of the committee and admitted that he routinely lies to media outlets.
This development comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told members of her caucus that she supports holding Lewandowski in contempt.