US-led coalition carries out patrols in Syria amid Turkish invasion threats
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State is carrying out patrols along the Syrian border between Tal Abyad and Serekaniye amid Turkish threats to invade over its southern border into areas east of the Euphrates River.
Col. James Scott Rawlinson, Director of Public Affairs and Spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), told Kurdistan 24, “Coalition forces routinely enable partner force patrols throughout northeast Syria.”
The goal of these patrols is to “better mitigate Daesh [Islamic State] threats to local residents, provide better security for the region and serve as part of CJTF-OIR's commitment to stability in the area.”
According to Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, the new coalition patrols “are designed to deter Turkey from crossing into Syria.”
Thomas McClure, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, told Kurdistan 24 that the coalition has stepped up activity in the city of Serekaniye following a rocket attack last Monday, launched by unknown actors into Turkey.
“The Coalition has increased its presence in the city. Increased patrols, flying the American flag in opposition to the previous practice of traveling in unflagged armoured cars,” he said.
According to the local Rojava TV news network, the US has finished preparations to turn former agricultural land into a US observation point near Serekaniye and that US troops have started conducting daily patrols between there and Tal Abyad.
In addition to this, the US is also bringing equipment to an “old airport near Darbasiyah” near the border, a civilian from the town told Kurdistan 24.
McClure added, that such developments are just part of a general increase of coalition presence and activity along the border.
“These patrols seem to be having the desired effect, as repeated Turkish threats of invasion against North East Syria have not materialized to date.”
Since last week, when Russia began its delivery to Turkey of its advanced S-400s missile defense system, Ankara has concentrated its troops on the Syrian border and continues its threats to attack the area.
The pro-Turkish government Anadolu News Agency reported on Thursday that the Turkish defense minister met with US officials about his government potentially launching military operations over the border. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, has warned his Turkish counterpart against doing so.
Other talks held on Wednesday between the US and Turkey about Syria ended in disagreement regarding the establishment of a safe zone in northeast Syria.
In November, the US carried out several patrols on the northeastern border of Syria, also then in the wake of Turkish threats to invade.
Amy Austin Holmes, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, told Kurdistan 24 that that “if actions speak louder than words, then the US patrols on the border should make clear to Ankara that the United States remains committed to the SDF and the territorial integrity of NE Syria.”
Editing by John J. Catherine