ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – The US-led coalition is installing radar systems in northeastern Syria to support the coalition’s air campaign against the Islamic State (IS), a coalition spokesperson told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported last week that the US-led coalition set up radar systems in northeastern Syria, adding that over 1,200 shipments and trucks entered Syria in August. It also said US bases were being expanded in Kobani and Hasakah.
However, the US-led coalition downplayed those reports, describing them as “a mix of sensationalized misreporting and propaganda.”
“Coalition partners, as a necessary part of the defeat Da’esh effort, have installed systems in northeastern Syria to provide vital protection and guidance to Coalition aircraft supporting the defeat-Da’esh mission,” Col. Thomas Veale, Director of Public Affairs for CJTF-OIR, told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday, using the pejorative Arabic acronym for IS.
“Systems like these are only focused on the [defeat IS] mission and to ensure continued support and safety of this international effort,” he added.
Sean Ryan, Spokesperson for the US-led Coalition against IS, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that “the Coalition installs satellites or other necessary equipment wherever needed within our area of operations for the sole purpose of defeating IS in conjunction with our [Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)] partners and [Iraqi Security Forces] partners.”
But, he added he could not confirm the locations of these US bases. “We do not list locations and specific locations for security reasons,” he said.
According to Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, this shows that the “conditions are being set for a long-term US zone in northern and eastern Syria.”
“The purpose of this zone is to create a space safe from [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], and out of the grasp of Iran, that will provide the United States and its allies a prime position on the ground in Syria to dictate the country’s future,” he told Kurdistan 24.
In April, President Donald Trump said the US could pull its troops from Syria “very soon,” creating uncertainty about the future of the SDF-controlled territory.
However, US officials have sought to dispel such concerns.
“As President Trump has made clear, the United States is prepared to stay in the northeast part of Syria to ensure the permanent defeat of IS,” Ambassador William Roebuck, a senior advisor to the US-led anti-IS coalition, told reporters on Tuesday after meeting tribal leaders from Deir al-Zor in al-Basira, the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor.
But the coalition told Kurdistan 24 they would not speculate on the future of US troops in Syria.
“We are not going to speculate on what policymakers will decide after Operation Roundup is complete, but we must emphasize we are a conditions-based organization focused on the lasting defeat of Da’esh,” Col.Veale concluded.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany