US will maintain military presence in Syria: US embassy
Erbil (Kurdistan 24) – The United States will maintain its military presence in Syria to ensure the ISIS threat is “eliminated,” the official Twitter account of the US Embassy in Syria said on Saturday.
“ISIS poses a direct threat both to the Syrian people and U.S. national security interests,” it said. “The U.S. will maintain our military presence in Syria to ensure the threat from the terrorist group is eliminated. The Syrian and American people deserve nothing less.”
The statement came after pro-Syrian government media claimed on Nov. 8 that the US was withdrawing forces from Kharb al-Jir airport in the northeastern countryside of Hasakah, northeast of Syria.
The allegation, rejected by the US mission, likely aimed to exert more pressure on and derive concessions from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—the US-led coalition’s main partner in the fight against ISIS in Syria—amid Turkish threats to attack the SDF.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby also underlined that the US partnership with the SDF is based on “one thing and one thing only, and that’s going after ISIS, and that partnership continues because that threat continues.”
Kirby, however, could not offer Washington’s guarantees that Turkey would not attack SDF areas in north and east Syria. The US partnership seeks to address the “ISIS threat that remains in Syria. We’re going to continue at that work. That’s important work,” he added.
Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman quoted SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi on Tuesday that the US had given the Kurdish-led forces assurances that Washington would not accept a Turkish attack.
“They informed us that during the last meeting between Erdogan and President Joe Biden [on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome on Oct. 31] that Erdogan was told that the United States would not accept any attack against us,” Abdi told Al-Monitor.
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Furthermore, Abdi said, the Russians had informed the SDF that the Kremlin had not made any deals with Turkey.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, addressing journalists on Nov. 4., said he has no specific response to a question about Turkey’s buildup of forces in northeastern Syria, apparently preparing an attack on the Kurds.
“We have called on all parties to respect the ceasefires that are in place,” he said. Price also affirmed on Tuesday, “we have sought to sustain the local ceasefires in place across the country.”
The US has around 900 troops in Syria.
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The US has a small presence at al-Tanf in southeast Syria, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. There they support the small Arab partner force, Maghawir al-Thawra.
However, the majority of US troops are stationed in northeast Syria, where they are partnered with the Kurdish-led SDF.
Former US president Donald Trump had planned to pull all US forces out of Syria to fulfill a promise from his 2016 presidential campaign to end America’s “forever wars” in the Middle East that have followed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
However, Trump’s attempts to withdraw from Syria were met with protest, including from his own political base, and he backed down.
Unlike the Trump administration, the Biden administration has promised to keep its troops in both Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS.