Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Suleiman Al-Khalidi / Reuters – 2016-03-07 00:06:17
Kurdish Report: US Building Two Air Bases in Northeast Syria
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 6, 2016) — New reports from the Kurdish media in Syria suggest the US is expanding its operations inside northeast Syria, and is now working on two separate air bases inside territory controlled by the Kurdish YPG.
A US project to expand the Rmelian Airfield was initially reported back in January, and the new report suggested that the Rmelian project is almost finished. The second project is at an as-yet-undisclosed site near the Kurdish city of Kobani.
US Central Command issued a statement “denying” that the US had any direct control over any airfields in Syria, though they did not actually deny that the projects themselves were ongoing, saying they are looking to increase “efficiency for logistics” in Syrian Kurdistan.
The Kurdish reports suggested that the US is already actively using the Rmelian field for flights of military helicopters. Even after expansion, the base is not expected to be big enough for most warplanes, but could accept arms deliveries as well as flights to deliver troops to the area.
US Builds Two Air Bases in
Kurdish-controlled North Syria: Kurdish Report
Suleiman Al-Khalidi / Reuters
AMMAN, Jordan (March 6, 2016) — The United States has nearly finished setting up an air base in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria and was proceeding with the construction of a second base for dual military and civilian use, a Kurdish website said on Sunday.
A spokesman for US Central Command (CENTCOM) said, however, the United States was not taking control of any airfields in Syria.
The Erbil-based news website BasNews, quoting a military source in the Kurdish-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), said most of the work on a runway in the oil town of Rmeilan in Hasaka was complete while a new air base southeast of Kobani, straddling the Turkish border, was being constructed.
The source in the US-backed alliance that also includes Arab armed groups told the news portal scores of US experts and technicians were involved in the project.
Syrian Kurdish officials had recently said the Rmeilan airstrip was being used by US military helicopters for logistics and deliveries.
The United States sent dozens of special operations troops to northern Syria last year to advise opposition forces in their fight against the militant group Islamic State. They have also dropped supply munitions to rebels in the province.
A CENTCOM spokesman said any suggestion US forces were in control of any airfields in Syria was incorrect.
“Our location and troop strength remains small and in keeping with what has been previously briefed by defense officials,” he said in a statement. “That being said, US forces in Syria are consistently looking for ways to increase efficiency for logistics and personnel recovery support.”
Last month, US advisors backed by coalition air strikes assisted Kurdish-led Syrian rebels in encircling and capturing the strategic Syrian town of Shadadi from Islamic State but were away from the frontlines, US officials said.
The Syrian Kurds have established control over wide areas of northern Syria since the country erupted into civil war in 2011, and their YPG militia has become a major partner in the US-led coalition against Islamic State.
US military ties with the Syrian Kurds have grown deeper despite the concerns of NATO ally Turkey, which views the Syrian Kurdish PYD party as a terrorist group because of its links to the PKK, which is waging an insurgency in Turkey.
The special US presidential envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, visited Kurdish-controlled northern Syria several weeks ago in what appeared to be the first declared trip to Syrian territory by an Obama administration official in three years.
McGurk said on Saturday in Baghdad the coalition was stepping up pressure on Islamic State and that the militants were losing ground in both Syria and Iraq.
US Troops Take Over Syria Airbase
Kurdish YPG Gives US Sole Control Over Base
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 21, 2016) — The Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are reporting today that US troops have taken over control of the Rmeilan airfield in northeastern Syria’s Hasakeh Province, the first US military base inside Syria.
The SDF reported that the Kurdish YPG, their largest faction, previously controlled the base and handed sole control over it to the US, as a route for the US to bring them weapons and to launch warplanes from.
Rmeilan Airport is not a military airfield by design, and was primarily for crop-dusting and agriculture. It is unclear, then, the extent to which it’ll really be used by the US as a base for warplanes. The US generally launches such planes from Turkey, though Turkey has loudly objected to the US aiding the Kurds.
Some reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggest that work is underway to expand the runway, and that US attack helicopters have been seen going in and out of the base for weeks.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren confirmed that there is an operation “ongoing” in the area, but refused to discuss the matter, citing the “special nature” of the US ground troops who are deployed in Syria. Officials previously confirmed a handful of troops were sent to Syria, but never suggested they were going to establish their own bases.
The operation appears legally dicey, at best, as while the base was nominally under the control of the Kurdish YPG, who are closely allied to the US, the Obama Administration has refused all coordination with the Syrian government, and certainly doesn’t have Syrian permission to establish military bases on Syrian soil.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.