DAMASCUS, SYRIA (4:00 A.M.) – Moments ago, Pentagon officials confirmed the US military had moved its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Jordan into the Al-Tanf border region in southern Syria.
The HIMARS represents a truck-mounted missile system which can reach targets 300 kilometers away, thus bringing the US-led coalition within firing range of Damascus itself.
“We have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat that is presented by the pro-regime forces,” US Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters at the Pentagon earlier this month.
One defense official said that the HIMARS move was a response to actions by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), which has deployed its own artillery near the US-declared “de-escalation zone” which covers a 55-kilometer perimeter surrounding Al-Tanf.
In the past, US Marines have also used the HIMARS missiles against ISIS in support of Kurdish forces in northern Syria although coalition troops prefer to use the M777 Howitzers artillery pieces.
US soldiers in southern Syria are embedded with vetted Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels. Due to a recent border offensive by the SAA, the US-led coalition no longer shares a frontline with ISIS in southern Syria which may in turn prompt American forces to retreat into Jordan.
Despite proclamations of a supposed de-escalation zone, the SAA has already advanced within 40 kilometers of the Al-Tanf border crossing and appears keen to retake the Baghdad-Damascus highway with support from Iraqi and Lebanese paramilitary fighters.