Russians enter US air base near Kobani after US forces left: SDF official
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – US-led Coalition forces on Thursday finalized their withdrawal from the Kobani region, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) official told Kurdistan 24, as Russian forces entered the base.
Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF press office, told Kurdistan 24 the “last group of Americans left and destroyed everything which belonged to them. Russians took their place and raised the Russian flag.”
According to Kurdistan 24 reporter in Kobani, Redwan Bezar, 50 US troops left the Serin base south of Kobani. Local Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reported that the evacuation of the base began days ago, with the withdrawal of soldiers and equipment from the base.
Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed that the US would withdraw from Kobani, but that it would “take another week or so.”
However, it seems the withdrawal from the Kobani region went faster than planned.
US Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric Hill, head of Special Operations Joint Task Force, also told reporters on Monday that US forces would withdraw from western areas [near Kobani] and would remain in the east of Syria to continue the fight against the Islamic State with the SDF in bases from “Deir al-Zor to Qamishli and Derik.”
Experts warn that this could open the way for Turkey to attack Kobani.
Kurdish Affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu told Kurdistan 24 that Kobani, as a city, has symbolic value since it was the first city were the Islamic State was defeated in January 2015.
“If US forces completely withdraw, it could open the city to attacks by Turkey and will damage the perception of Kobani’s people,” he argued. “The stability and peace that the city enjoyed would turn into chaos, as is what happened in other parts of Kurdish-controlled Syria.”
On Monday, Bali told Kurdistan 24 there was still a threat to Kobani and that “Russia and America and other states should offer guarantees to protect our people.”
Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 that “Russia wants the SDF to stop working with the Americans to hold so much Syrian oil, and if the Russians allowed Turkey to move on Kobani, it would be a massive problem for the Americans, who are dependent on the SDF.”
In mid October, senior US officials said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured US President Donald Trump that he would not attack Kobani.
During a meeting between US president Trump and Turkish president Erdogan on Wednesday, the US president also stated that the Turkish-US ceasefire deal from October 17 was “moving forward.” But the fighting continues and has included attacks on villages inhabited by Christians, whom the Trump administration had particularly promised to protect.
Thomas McClure, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, told Kurdistan 24 locals in Kobani only want security, stability, and to continue rebuilding their lives after the Islamic State ransacked the city.
“Civilians we speak to in the city would prefer any option, even Assad, to the slaughter and random targeting of civilians which Turkey and its jihadist proxies have brought to the newly-occupied regions.”
Editing by Nadia Riva