US plans decades-long military presence in northern Syria: Militia group
A US-backed militia group in northern Syria says American forces plan to remain in the Arab state “for decades to come” after the fall of Daesh, adding that Washington is not providing support to anti-Damascus militants “for free.”
In a Thursday report by Reuters, Talal Silo, the spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), said the SDF believes that Washington has “strategic interests here after the end of Daesh.”
“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 Kurdish-dominated SDF holds 400-kilometer (250-mile) stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border. The US has deployed forces at several locations in northern Syria, providing support to the SDF with air strikes, artillery and special forces on the ground.
The SDF is involved in an operation against Daesh terrorists in Raqqah Province.
In July, the head of the YPG said the US had established seven military bases in northern Syria, including a major air base near the border town of Kobani.
“They (recently) referred to the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings – they are not giving support just to leave. America is not providing all this support for free,” Silo said.
He suggested that the US could turn northern Syria into a new base for its forces in the region, adding, “Maybe there could be an alternative to their [Incirlik] base in Turkey.”
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, refused to provide a timeline for the US presence in northern Syria, saying, “The Department of Defense does not discuss timelines for future operations. However we remain committed to the destruction of ISIS (Daesh) and preventing its return.”
Meanwhile, there are concerns within the SDF that the US may not provide enough support to their forces and civil councils which control northeast Syria.
“We are constantly asking them (the US) for clear, public political support,” Silo said. “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 added.
The SDF offensive is backed by US-led airstrikes, which have claimed hundreds of civilian lives in Raqqah over the past months. Besides its role in Raqqah, Washington has, since 2014, been leading an alliance of mainly NATO states in what is called a military campaign against Daesh.
On Wednesday, the Syrian government called on the UN to put an end to the US-led coalition’s crimes against Syrians in their so-called mission against Daesh.
Damascus also accused the US-led coalition of using guided bombs and internationally-banned white phosphorus munitions in flagrant violation of international law and human rights principles.