US Forces to Stay in Syria for 'Decades'
August 18, 2017
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & John Davison / Reuters
Pentagon officials have been pretty clear about their intention of keeping troops in Iraq more or less forever. The plans for Syria, however, have been far less public, mostly owing to the fact that US troops are there without the approval of the Syrian government.
US Forces to Stay in Syria for 'Decades'
Spokesman Says US Has Strategic Policy
For Staying in Northern Syria
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(August 17, 2017) -- Pentagon officials have been pretty clear about their intention of keeping troops in Iraq more or less forever. The plans for Syria, however, have been far less public, mostly owing to the fact that US troops are there without the approval of the Syrian government.
The Kurdish YPG, however, appears to be privy to US intentions on the matter,and spokesman Talal Silo claims that he US has a "strategy policy" committing them to keep military forces in northern Syria "for decades to come."
The expectation here is that US forces are to be deployed inside the Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava, though this is obviously predicated on the Kurds keeping on autonomous region beyond the war itself, something they haven't negotiated with anyone else, and which even the US is officially "opposed" to, preferring Syria to have a strong centralized government.
Yet the reality is that a strong, centralized government in Syria is almost certain to reject the idea of an open-ended US military presence. The Kurdish YPG may be comfortable with such a hosting deal both to keep US arms flowing in and to keep the Turkish military out, but the Assad government has made clear they don't consider the US welcome, and there's little sign that the post-war government is going to be so dramatically changed as to reverse that view.
Exclusive: US Forces to
Stay in Syria for Decades, Say Militia Allies
John Davison / Reuters
AIN ISSA, Syria (August 17, 2017) -- Washington's main Syrian ally in the fight against Islamic State says the US military will remain in northern Syria long after the jihadists are defeated, predicting enduring ties with the Kurdish-dominated region.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG, believes the United States has a "strategic interest" in staying on, SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters.
"They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) . . . and the US administration," Silo said.
The US-led coalition against Islamic State has deployed forces at several locations in northern Syria, including an airbase near the town of Kobani. It has supported the SDF with air strikes, artillery, and special forces on the ground.
Asked about long-term strategy, Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the coalition, referred Reuters to the Pentagon. He said there was "still a lot of fighting to do, even after ISIS has been defeated in Raqqa".
Islamic State remained in strongholds along the Euphrates River Valley, he added, in a reference to its stronghold in Deir al-Zor province southeast of Raqqa.
"Our mission . . . is to defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and to set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability," Dillon said, without elaborating.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said in Washington: "The Department of Defense does not discuss timelines for future operations. However we remain committed to the destruction of ISIS and preventing its return."
The SDF and YPG dominate a swathe of northern Syria where Kurdish-led autonomous administrations have emerged since the onset of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
The YPG and its allies hold an uninterrupted 400-km (250-mile) stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.
The US alliance with the SDF and YPG is a major point of contention with neighboring Turkey, a US ally. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.
Silo said: "The Americans have strategic interests here after the end of Daesh," using a pejorative term for Islamic State.
"They (recently) referred to the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings -- they're not giving support just to leave. America is not providing all this support for free," Silo said.
He suggested northern Syria could become a new base for US forces in the region. "Maybe there could be an alternative to their base in Turkey," he added, referring to the Incirlik air base.
The head of the YPG said last month the United States had established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria controlled by the YPG or SDF, including a major air base near Kobani, a town at the border with Turkey.
The coalition says it does not discuss the location of its forces, citing operational security.
Reuters reporters have seen Blackhawk and Apache military helicopters taking off from a cement factory southeast of Kobani, a Kurdish town on the border with Turkey.
Washington under the new US administration of President Donald Trump started distributing arms to the YPG in March ahead of the final assault on Raqqa city, infuriating Turkey which has been unsuccessfully lobbying Washington to abandon the SDF.
Despite SDF confidence that US forces will stay, there is concern that Washington will not give enough backing to YPG-allied forces and civil councils that control northeast Syria.
"We're constantly asking them for clear, public political support," Silo said. He said the US State Department held its first public meeting with SDF officials this month.
"At the moment there are no meetings being held for a real discussion of Syria's future. There are initiatives for developing political support for our forces, but we hope this will be bigger," he said.
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