Russian aircraft on June 16 targeted US-backed Syrian rebels, resulting in injuries and deaths of fighters trained by Americans. A “small number” of Syrian fighters were killed after the strike near al-Tanf, Reuters reported. The US used its “line of communication” with Russia to express its concerns and determined what happened in the strike, which if it did target a group fighting ISIS, is the opposite of what Russia said it was deploying to Syria to do, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday. If the strike was not intentional, it “says something about the quality of information of which they use to make airstrikes,” Carter said. The US and Russia speak regularly on phone calls, and in this case the line “wasn’t professionally used,” he said. “We’re trying to clarify the facts, and use that channel with the Russians to understand” what happened, he said.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.