The warning followed after US fighter jets attempted to engage Syrian Arab Air Force planes in Syria last week, in a potential showdown that was avoided as the Syrian government planes left before the Americans arrived.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis claimed on Friday the US fighters attempted to intercept the Syrian planes to protect American advisers – a term the US military often uses for its Special Operations Forces – working with Kurdish forces after the Syrian government jets bombed the area.
On Monday, another Pentagon spokesman, Peter Cook, said, “We would continue to advise the Syrian regime to steer clear of those areas.”
“We are going to defend our people on the ground, and do what we need to defend them,” Cook told reporters.
“It’s not a no-fly zone,” he said, adding that “the Syrian regime would be wise to avoid areas where coalition forces have been operating.”
When asked about Russia, Cook said the US would also do the same with Russian jets, which have been striking Daesh targets in Syria at the country’s request since last year.
“If they threaten US forces, we always have the right to defend our forces,” Cook said.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton have both said they support no-fly zones, but President Obama is reluctant to commit resources and troops to enforce such a measure
On Friday the Pentagon reported that two Syrian SU-24 attack planes attacked Kurdish forces undergoing training with US Special Operations troops around the northeastern city of Hasakah, but they had left by the time the American jets arrived.
The General Command of the Syrian Arab Army responded by saying that Kurdish forces were “attacking state institutions, stealing oil and cotton, obstructing exams, kidnapping unarmed civilians and spreading chaos and instability.”