US military calls on Kurdish forces in northeast Syria in latest U-turn since troop withdrawal

US military calls on Kurdish forces in northeast Syria in latest U-turn since troop withdrawal
Washington’s abrupt pullout left its Kurdish allies exposed, and allowed Turkey to conduct an incursion into Syria against the SDF.
2 min read
02 November, 2019
This is the second such visit by US forces to the SDF. [Getty]
US military vehicles entered a Kurdish held region and met with officials, AFP reported, in the second such visit since the United States pulled its troops out of the Syrian border region with Turkey. 

The American forces visited the headquarters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Force (SDF) in the city of Qamishli. They also passed by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia that spearheads the SDF and is accused by Turkey of being close to the terrorist PKK.

A similar US convoy was seen further east along the border two days earlier outside the town of Qahtaniyah, in an area they used to operate in before Washington announced the military pullout.

[Also read: Russia and Turkey begin joint Syria patrols following Kurdish withdrawal]

AFP reported that the Americans were coming to “set up a major military post in Qamishli,” saying they wanted to return to the city. The Americans could relocate some troops to oil-rich eastern Syria to held root out the remaining IS fighters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the US still has forces in a base near Rmeilan, a town further east along the border.

The US-led alliance with the Kurdish forces was primarily targeted at fighting the deadly Islamic State group. 

After an abrupt and widely criticised decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw American troops from this part of Syria, the Kurdish forces approached the Syrian government and Russia for protection. Syrian government troops and Russian military police subsequently moved into areas along the border.

Two ceasefire agreements - brokered by the US and Russia - paused Turkey's operation to allow the Syrian Kurdish fighters withdraw 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) away from the border.

On Friday, Turkey's defence ministry announced that a Turkish soldier was killed after an improvised explosive device detonated on Thursday, bringing the Turkish military's death toll to 13 since the start Ankara's invasion in northeastern Syria on 9 October. Mortars fired from Syria during the early phases of the operation killed 21 civilians in Turkey.

Though the truce has mostly held, there have been incidents of civilian casualties, with at least 13 being killed in a marketplace on the border town of Tal Abyad.

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