A United States defence official has said that over 100 American troops have begun an unannounced military exercise in southern Syria, in response to a possible attack by the Russian forces.
The exercise comes after Moscow, on September 1, had warned for the first time that it would enter a restricted area in southern Syria, where the US troops are located. Subsequently, on Thursday, it issued its second warning that it would clear out the terrorists in the At Tanf area with "precision strikes", CNN reported.
Launching an attack with such weapons in a US-protected area would likely lead to an escalation in sporadic violence in the region, US defence officials said.
In the military exercise, the US troops are involved in flying an assault helicopter into the coalition's At Tanf garrison and carrying out live fire drills.
"Our forces will demonstrate the capability to deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces and conduct rapid exfiltration," Captain William Urban, the chief Central Command spokesman said.
Officials have stated that the military drill is designed for Russian and regime units in the area to understand US capabilities, as per the CNN report.
Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesperson, said that Washington would not fight against Moscow, Damascus or other groups supporting the Syrian civil war. However, he warned that it would not hesitate to use force to defend the US and its coalition partners.
"The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war.
However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances," he said.
The unexpected military exercise comes as the Donald Trump administration has given stern warnings over an assault in Idlib province.
On Monday, Trump took to Twitter to warn Syrian president Bashar al-Assad not to "recklessly attack" Idlib province. He also cautioned Iran and Russia to not participate in a "potential human tragedy" for the fear of making a "grave humanitarian mistake."
His response came after suspected Russian planes on Tuesday carried out airstrikes in the rebel-held targets in Idlib province.
On Friday, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that if Assad, Russia, and Iran carried out an assault in the province, "the consequences will be dire."
"The United States has been very clear, with Russia and with the broader international community: we consider any assault on Idlib to be a dangerous escalation of the conflict in Syria," Haley said at a UN Security Council meeting.