U.S. forces in Syria have suffered 22 casualties in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash in northeastern Syria. “A helicopter mishap in northeastern Syria resulted in the injuries of various degrees of 22 US service members,” an official statement clarified, adding that there was no enemy fire reported at the time. The seriousness of the injuries suffered varied, with 15 personnel moved to higher care facilities for treatment outside the country. The incident is widely reported to have likely occurred during an airdrop operation in Al Hasakah, a province in northeast Syria, and is far from unprecedented. In 2017, for example, a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey crashed in the country causing two Marine casualties, while casualties have also been suffered in clashes with local forces. The U.S. Military retains a presence of approximately 900 personnel in Syria, which was reinforced in 2018-2020 with heavy weapons including HIMARS rocket artillery systems, M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. Other assets have continued to be deployed as further reinforcements since then.
U.S. forces in Syria have been deployed to assert control over the country’s most oil rich region, with oil being extracted in considerable quantities, exported, sold and the funds appropriated to finance the American military presence. This is widely considered illegal, if not pillaging which is a war crime, as neither the Syrian government not the United Nations Security Council have authorised the occupation or the extraction and sale of Syrian oil, with these being the only authorities which can legitimately do so under international law. Syrian and allied efforts to challenge the American military presence have been met with overwhelming retaliation leveraging the U.S. Military’s vast network of regional military bases and its surrounding naval presence, with aircraft ranging from AC-130 gunships to F-18E Super Hornet carrier based fighters consistently dispatched to support personnel on the ground when they face threats. Black Hawk helicopters deployed for operations in Syria have notably also deployed unique laser countermeasures to improve survivability against possible attacks using handheld infrared guided surface to air missiles. The U.S. has been supported in its occupation by a number of European states, with Norway and France being among those that have deployed special forces to occupied areas, while NATO ally Turkey had imposed a similar occupation in northeastern Syria.