ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Amjad Othman, official spokesperson and founding member of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) said on Friday that the organization welcomes the US decision to keep troops in Syria, although it has not been formally notified by US officials.
“Until now, we have not received any official confirmation,” Othman told Kurdistan 24. “We only heard about it through the media.”
“But we think this decision is good for the stability and safety of northern Syria,” he continued. “After the December 19 decision by the US president to withdraw from Syria, we were threatened by many sides.”
This decision “will help in the fight against ISIS. It will help maintain stability in the region and protect us against Turkish threats,” Othman added. “Moreover, this means that the US will play an important role in the political solution.”
Late on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a surprise announcement that the US would keep 200 troops in eastern Syria as a “peacekeeping force,” significantly modifying President Donald Trump’s earlier decision to withdraw all US troops.
On Friday, Reuters reported that the figure would be twice as high: some 400 troops would remain in Syria, divided between northeastern Syria and al-Tanf, a town near the Iraqi border that sits astride the main highway from Baghdad to Damascus. The US base there blocks Iran from using the road to supply its forces in Syria, including its proxy militias, as well as Hizbollah in Lebanon.
Trump was persuaded on Thursday to leave 200 US troops in Syria, in the expectation that they will be joined by 800 to 1,500 troops from allied countries to establish a safe zone along the Turkish border. But even the latest US figures are “not firm and could still change,” Reuters reported.
The SDC had called on the US and its coalition partners to keep some 1,500 troops in Syria to continue the fight against the Islamic State and prevent any Turkish attack.
“If Turkey enters this area, we are sure that all of Syria will be set on fire and end up in chaos and instability,” Othman had said earlier. “It would create a big humanitarian crisis and many refugees, and it would not only be bad for Kurds, but also for Arabs and Christians.”
“The Pentagon has known for quite some time that Europe was going to want to see some US military investment on the ground in Syria, as the price for European involvement,” Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, advised Kurdistan 24.
“This small residual US military presence in Syria is the seed for a much larger US-led Coalition involvement,” he said.
Editing by Laurie Mylroie