In 2014, United States forces went to Syria to help defeat and drive out ISIS. It took three years before the city of Raqqa fell, and the United States stayed behind. But, they were sure they could bring order to the area.
The United States and the Kurish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were in control of the Conoco gas field, which was by the eastern Syria town of al-Tabiyeh. The US and the SDF were set up on the eastern side of the Euphrates River.
However, the government of Syria had its troops and Russian mercenaries on the opposite side of the river. According to the intel the United States had, no Russian troops were in the area.
According to the defense secretary at the time, Jim Mattis, there were zero Russian troops in the area. Instead, all Russians in the area were contractors and were partnered with Bashar al-Asad.
Those forces had control over the city of Deir-ez-Zor, which was the perfect position for planning attacks and crossing the river. Americans watched as pro-government troops gathered in the city.
However, they did not know exactly who was gathering there.
Attacking The SDF
The forces rolled out on February 7, 2018, with 500 pro-government troops with Iranian-trained Shia militia and Russian military contractors heading to attack the SDF base. They began attacking with mortars and rockets, with backup from T-72 and T-55 tanks.
What the Syrians did not know was the headquarters had 40 special forces. First, they verified that there were no Russian forces involved in the attack. Then, they called in a strike force consisting of AC-130 “Spooky” Gunships, F-15E Strike Eagles, Reaper drones, Apache helicopters, F-22 Raptors, and even B-52 Stratofortress bombers.
The counterattack was bolstered by Marine Corps artillery batteries which were already close by. As a result, the Syrians suffered many losses, while the coalition side had a single casualty plus a wounded SDF fighter.
While the U.S. said the Syrians had around 100 casualties, they reported losing 55 men plus the ten mercenaries. In further contrast, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 68 Syrians died.
Russia’s media was upset that the remains of their mercenaries were left behind, while the company that hired them said that 14 were killed. They also said they were “fed up” with how the stories were spun and said, “no one has abandoned anyone.”