Senior American and Russian military leaders met for an unprecedented, face-to-face session somewhere in the Middle East this week to discuss the growing tensions in the competing battles to retake one of the remaining Islamic State strongholds in Syria.
Syrian government forces, Russian special forces and U.S.-backed militants are all battling IS around the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province. The talks are aimed at ensuring safety for all the different fighting elements.
The meeting, however, also suggests an expanded U.S. and Russian effort to coordinate their efforts, raising questions about how the Pentagon is adhering to an American prohibition against military-to-military cooperation with Moscow. Congress enacted that law in the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014.
Army Col. Ryan Dillon told Pentagon reporters on Thursday that U.S. and Russian general officers shared maps, graphics and information about where their forces are battling around Deir el-Zour. He would not provide details on when or where the meeting occurred, beyond saying it took place in recent days somewhere in the region.