US Secretary of Defense James Mattis waits for Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi during an honor cordon at the Pentagon March 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski
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Pro-Syrian government forces including Russian mercenaries amassed near U.S. and U.S.-backed forces last week in Syria, but a potential confrontation was defused after the U.S. military contacted Russian officers, U.S. officials said Tuesday.However, Mattis said that after U.S. forces spoke with their Russian counterparts, the pro-Syrian government troops pulled back.Mattis said he believed the forces were under Russian control.The U.S. military also attempted to use a hot line with Russia to defuse a crisis in February when forces who later turned out to be working for a Kremlin-linked contractor were building up near U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in Syria.
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