ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Col. Myles B. Caggins III, spokesperson for the US-led coalition, explained to Kurdistan 24 that the coalition is beginning to reposition troops to the Deir al-Zor region.
“The Coalition continues a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria and will reposition some forces to the Deir al-Zor region in order to continue partnering with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to defeat ISIS remnants, protect critical infrastructure, and deny ISIS access to revenue sources,” he told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday.
“Adding mechanized forces provides infantry, maneuverability, and firepower. All Coalition military operations are de-conflicted with other forces operating in the region, through pre-existing channels and interlocutors in order to reduce the risk of interference, miscalculation, or unintended escalation of military operations.”
He added that the Kobani Landing Zone remains open to facilitate the additional movement of troops and equipment outside of Syria.
On Thursday, a Kurdistan 24 reporter witnessed a convoy of US forces arriving near the village of Şelomê southeast of the town of Al-Qahtaniyah (Tirbespiye), on the border with Turkey.
Moreover, the local Hawar News Agency reported that a convoy of the US-led coalition was spotted passing from Tal Tamr toward Ain Issa and Serin, south of Kobani.
Caggins confirmed that Coalition forces, on Thursday, transited “the M4 highway and other routes, as it withdraws troops from northern Syria and repositions some troops to the Deir al-Zor region.”
Last Wednesday, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would retain a military presence in eastern Syria to prevent the Islamic State from regaining control over the oil fields.
READ MORE: US to bolster control of Syrian oil fields
Then, on Saturday, a US military convoy was seen traveling west on the M-4 highway toward Qamishli, before it turned south.
Local sources thought the movement might be part of the newly announced US deployment, but that was not correct.
Thomas McClure, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, told Kurdistan 24 that SDF sources said there had been no “patrol per se, just a part of an ongoing return to positions of US troops.”
“They were on the move on the main border road between Tirbespi and Qamishlo,” he said.
“General movement has been southward but US forces are also back in positions close to the border near Derik.”
Along with its partners in the SDF, the US now holds the Syrian oil fields. But as it withdraws from other areas of northeast Syria, it will bolster its presence in the oil fields to include armored vehicles: Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Media reports suggest that some 500 US troops – roughly half the current deployment – will be involved in controlling the Syrian oil fields.
The US will continue to control air space, and counterterrorism operations will also continue, the Washington Post earlier reported.
Editing by Laurie Mylroie