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The New Arab

US weapons rushed to SDF signalling possible U-turn over Syria

Around 2,000 US troops are present in Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 January, 2019

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American troops could remain in Syria for now despite plans for withdrawal.
Scores of trucks carrying American weapons and military equipment have entered northern Syria over the past few weeks, with signs that the US might reverse its planned pull-out of troops from the war-torn country, according to monitor reports.

Around 150 trucks carrying weapons, ammunition and logistics equipment recently entered Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria from Iraq, and headed to US bases in Raqqa, Manbij and Ayn al-Issa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

American, French, British and other foreign forces are training and supporting fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their fight against the Islamic State group.

The jihadi force still occupies small pockets of territory close to the Iraqi border in eastern Syria, and have still carried out rocket strikes and counter-attacks in recent days.

The SDF also fear that the group could be operating sleeper cells in territories under their control, following the arrest of five suspected foreign fighters late December.

The latest delivery of arms follows another military convoy of 200 trucks that headed to US-led international coalition bases east of the Euphrates on 29 December, ten days after President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, according to the monitor.

The New Arab could not independently verify the movement of the trucks, although the US has continued to supply ammunition and arms to the SDF in their offensive against IS despite Trump's announcement, sources have said.

SDF forces have continued their offensives on IS positions, with IS launching some counter-attacks in recent days.

American weapons and air support have been key to the Kurdish-led fight-back against the jihadis in northern and eastern Syria, which has contributed to IS' collapse in Iraq and Syria.

The decision to withdraw has led to uproar in American security circles - including Defence Minister Jim Mattis who allegedly resigned in protest - who argued that a pull-out in Syria is premature, as IS had not been defeated and still pose a major threat.

They also said that the US' Kurdish allies would be left at the mercy of Turkey, whose forces have built-up around SDF-controlled areas following Trump's announcement on 19 December of the American withdrawal.

On Sunday, Trump's security adviser John Bolton said that despite the president's promises of a swift withdrawal of around 2,000 American servicemen and women from Syria, there were still some conditions to be met.

This included the complete defeat of IS and a promise by Turkey they would not target Kurdish forces.

He said he asked Turkey not to engage in military activity in Syria without first getting US approval.

Bolton also implied that he told Turkey the US would not tolerate Kurdish fighters from the SDF being killed.

"That's what the president said, the ones that fought with us," he said.

He also urged Washington's Kurdish allies not to seek assistance from Russia or the Syrian regime.

Bolton also assured that some American troops would stay in the US manned base of al-Tanf in southern Syria, to counter the spread of Iranian militias in the area.

In another sign that the US might entrench its positions in Syria, the observatory also said that American forces were establishing a military base near Tal Abyad, which lies on the Turkish border.

"The international coalition renewed its contract to support the Syria Democratic Forces for two years... the contract is based on establishing a full programme for the coalition and a way for applying it, and then renewing it every two years," the report stated.

The monitor also announced that other SDF and American bases being established in eastern and nothern Syria, as part of the campaign against IS.


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