ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency revealed the locations and number of French soldiers based in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) on Friday, just one day after French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated support for Kurdish-led forces there.
"French soldiers are cooperating with YPG/PKK," read headlines in multiple languages, including French, on Anadolu's website, citing 'trusted local sources.'
It listed five French military bases in northern Syria; in Mishtanour Hill near Kobani on the border with Turkey, the town of Sirrin to the south, the Lafarge cement plant to the southeast, the subdistrict of Ain Issa, and the city of Raqqa, formerly the de facto capital of the Islamic State (IS).
30 French soldiers were claimed to be in Raqqa and, in other locations, 70 were said to be deployed.
All the areas mentioned are under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and its multi-ethnic affiliate Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) since their liberation from IS was achieved with the help of the US-led Coalition.
Ankara charges that both YPG and SDF are extensions of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), labeled a 'terrorist' group by the Turkish state and its Western allies, a view not shared by Washington and Paris.
French military's advisory role to the SDF in northern Syria is no secret as Defense officials announced it publicly in 2016. However, there has been no official statement regarding how many they are or where they are based.
The Turkish government's media agency also claimed that the French Army's 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (1er RPIMa) and its Air Force's Commando Parachute unit number 10 (CPA 10) were also present in Syria.
"Although these forces appear to be stationed in Iraq, it seems that they often travel to northern Syria through the Semalka border crossing," the article read.
The report from Ankara came one day after Macron hosted a delegation of SDF officials in Paris.
Some French media outlets have alleged that the President also promised to send troops to the town of Manbij, west of the River Euphrates, a location Turkey threatens with an invasion despite existing US outposts there.
"He assured the SDF of the support of France, in particular for the stabilization of the secured zones in the northeast of Syria [...] to prevent any resurgence of Daesh [IS] in the waiting [for] a political solution to the Syrian conflict," a statement by the Elysee read.
France has been the most outspoken critic of Turkey's Russian-sanctioned invasion of the Kurdish canton of Afrin, west of Manbij.
A similar report last year by the Turkish agency on American bases led to a backlash from US officials.
"We would be very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would purposefully endanger our forces by releasing sensitive information,” Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesperson said at the time.
“The release of sensitive military information exposes Coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS," he continued in remarks to Bloomberg.
Earlier in the month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that there were 20 US bases in Syria and questioned their presence, alleging Western support for the Kurds were actions leading up to an attack on his country and Iran.
Editing by John J. Catherine