Two days ago the Syrian Arab Army closed the last gaps on the west bank of the Euphrates. Having fought all the way from Aleppo along the river towards the east the Tiger Force reached the liberated Deir Ezzor from the west. All settlements on the way are now controlled by the Syrian government. The remaining Islamic State fighters were pushed into the desert where they will be hunted down and killed.
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Two days ago the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, declared a “complete victory” in Syria:
“Naturally, there could still be some pockets of resistance, but overall the military work at this stage and on this territory is completed with, I repeat, the total rout of the terrorists,” he said.
North of the Euphrates the U.S. proxy force SDF had recently negotiated another agreement (42) with the remaining Islamic State fighters there. ISIS allegedly handed over a border crossing with Iraq to the SDF and in exchange was guaranteed free passage through SDF controlled areas. This agreement came after an earlier one in which the U.S. and SDF let 3,500 ISIS fighters flee from Raqqa to fight the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor. That was a U.S. attempt to delay or prevent the victory of Syria and its allies. It failed.
Shortly after the claimed new ceasefire between the U.S. SDF proxies and ISIS, Russian officers met with officials of the Kurdish YPG, the central force of the SDF. The talks completely changed the situation. In a joint press conference the Kurds and the Russians committed to work together to fight ISIS east of the Euphrates. It seems that the YPG is no longer convinced that the U.S. is willing to do so. The Russians took command and the Russian air forces has since supported the YPG in its fight against ISIS in Deir Ezzor governate on the eastern bank of the river:
“A joint operative staff has been created in the town of Es-Salhiya to provide direct control and organize the cooperation with the popular militia units. Apart from Russian advisors, representatives of the eastern Euphrates tribes are taken part in it,” Poplavskiy said, noting that in the “coming days” the entire territory east of Euphrates River will be free from terrorists.
Mahmoud Nuri, a representative of the Kurdish YPG, stated that the militia “battled ISIS under Russian command very effectively.” Kurdish forces have also expressed readiness to ensure the safety of the Russian military specialists operating on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
The U.S. is seriously miffed that the Russians are suddenly supporting the U.S. proxy in Syria’s north-east. The U.S. wants to claim the area for itself. (It probably also wants to protect the rest of ISIS there to reuse it when convenient.) The U.S. claims that the Russian air support for the Kurds is violating “coalition airspace”.
In one instance, two Air Force A-10 attack planes flying east of the Euphrates River nearly collided head-on with a Russian Su-24 Fencer just 300 feet away — a knife’s edge when all the planes were streaking at more than 350 miles per hour. The A-10s swerved to avoid the Russian aircraft, which was supposed to fly only west of the Euphrates.
Since American and Russian commanders agreed last month to fly on opposite sides of a 45-mile stretch of the Euphrates to prevent accidents in eastern Syria’s increasingly congested skies, Russian warplanes have violated that deal half a dozen times a day, according to American commanders. They say it is an effort by Moscow to test American resolve, bait Air Force pilots into reacting rashly, and help the Syrian Army solidify territorial gains ahead of diplomatic talks aimed at resolving the country’s nearly seven-year-old war.
ISIS is gone. There is no justification for any “coalition airspace”. Where please is the “deal” that allows the U.S. to indefinitely occupy north-east Syria as it now officially demands?
The Pentagon plans to keep some U.S. forces in Syria indefinitely, even after a war against the Islamic State extremist group formally ends, to take part in what it describes as ongoing counterterrorism operations, officials said.
There are approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, along with an unspecified number of contractors supporting them. Last month, the U.S. military withdrew 400 Marines from Syria, which U.S. forces first entered in the fall of 2016.
Officials earlier this week disclosed the plans for an open-ended commitment, known as a “conditions-based” presence.
The Pentagon has said the forces will target parts of Syria that aren’t fully governed by either regime or rebel forces. The military says it has the legal authority to remain there.
The U.S. military has lots of fantasies about “legal authority” and “deals”. We had already noted that such a “presence” in Syria is obviously illegal. The fig leaf of a UN resolution 2249 to fight ISIS no longer applies. Putin intentionally emphasized the “total rout of the terrorists” and the “complete” victory to point that out. There is absolutely no justification for the U.S. to stay. Moreover – the presence there is unsustainable.
The commander of the paramilitary forces which support the Syrian and Iraqi government sent a note to the U.S. to let it know that any remaining U.S. forces in Syria will be fought down:
In 1983 U.S. and French military barracks in Beirut were blown up after their forces had intervened on one side of the Lebanese civil war. Several hundred soldiers died. After the attack, the U.S. pulled out of Lebanon. U.S. soldiers staying in north-east Syria can now expect a similar fate.
The U.S. claims that it has 2,000 soldiers in north-east Syria. This after it had claimed that the number was 500. This new number was announced after it had already pulled out 400 marines and it is still way too low:
The updated figure does not reflect troops assigned to classified missions and some Special Operations personnel, Mr Pahon said.
The U.S. had for months claimed that it only had 500 soldiers in the area. It did not even mention the contractors that follow its troops everywhere. The real number of U.S. personnel must have been ten times as high as the official one. The new official number is “2,000 and some”. The real new number is likely still above 3,500 plus several thousand contractors. This revelation confirms again that the U.S. military lies whenever and wherever it can.
The now remaining “more than 2,000″ will need tens of tons of supplies each day and the U.S. has no secured supply line into north-east Syria. It is arrogant idiocy to keep the troops there in place. A few roving guerillas can easily choke those supplies. Each of the camps those troops occupy will be a target of external and insider attacks.
The YPG Kurds are already skipping out of their coalition with the U.S. They are now making friends with the Russians who provide them with air-support where the U.S. wants to keep ISIS alive. How much longer will the U.S. soldiers in the YPG controlled areas be able to trust their “allies”?
The Pentagon says that the presence in Syria is “conditions-based” but it does not name any condition that would have to be fulfilled for ending it. General Soleimani seems to believe that a few hundred body bags arriving at Andrews airbase near Washington, DC might be enough condition fulfillment to do the trick.
The situation in other parts of Syria is largely unchanged. The various Takfiri groups in Idelb governate continue to slaughter each other. The Syrian forces will likely hold back their planned attacks into the area as long as their enemies there are devouring each other. But a year from now Idelb, and north-east Syria, will likely be back in the Syrian government’s hand.