As virtually all pretense of leaving Syria has vanished from the rhetoric of the White House, American and French soldiers have now moved into Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria near Manbij in an effort to prevent Turkish military operations aimed at clearing the Kurds from the border area as well as any Syrian attempt to liberate northern Syria from Turkish terrorists.
The United States has established at least two new bases in the area near Manbij and French Special Forces have been deployed alongside the Americans.
If there was any belief that America was planning to leave Syria, that belief should now be dispelled. This is not an exit strategy, it is an occupation. It is also an attempt to solidify the “federalization” of Syria through foreign military forces acting as a deterrent to liberation.
Early on, it was reported by sources within the Kurdish/jihadist SDF that French forces were moving about in SDF territory. Shortly after those reports, photos were acquired by Sputnik that showed not only French but American forces working together in SDF territory. The photo showed two armored vehicles with military personnel in and next to them, one with a French flag and one with a US flag. The picture was taken in the area of the Sajur River in the Manbij area.
According to a senior member of the Military Council of Manbij cited by Sputnik, about 50 French soldiers were stationed in the area. On April 5, it was reported that French military forces were busy constructing a military base in the north of Manbij.
“Recently the French military arrived in Manbij. Now they are busy building a military base in the north of Manbij. They are increasing their presence in the region in order to prevent a possible operation from the Turkish Armed Forces and the units of the Free Syrian Army,” the source said.
He added that the French military is constantly patrolling the Sajur River area.
“While on duty, they use armored vehicles, on which the French flag is visible. There are about 50 French military forces on the border of Manbij,” he said.
Muhammed Ebu Adil, commander of the Military Council of Manbij stated that a US-French joint military team had arrived at the border.
Reports suggested that 250 French soldiers are based in SDF regions, north of Ayn al-Arab (Kobane), Tabqa, Raqqa, and Deir ez Zor.
For its part, Turkey has announced a desire and plan to remove YPG forces from Manbij as well. During a meeting between Russia, Turkey and Iran in Ankara to discuss the Syrian crisis, Turkish President Erdogan stated, “I would like to repeat that unless we ensure security in all the regions controlled by the YPG [the Kurdish People’s Protection Units] first of all, in Manbij, we will not stop.”
In response, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli warned France “not to take such a reckless step.”
“In other words, if France tries to deploy their troops in northern Syria, it will violate international law. The activities of France could be considered as an attempt to occupy the Syrian territories,” Canikli stated.
Erdogan reiterated his warning, saying that “hosting, at the most senior level, members of a terrorist organization . . . is nothing short of hostility towards Turkey.” He also added that Turkey would never negotiate with terrorists.
But the French are not the only ones pledging support and deploying troops to protect the SDF from Turkey and Syria. The United States itself established two military bases in the Manbij area in the Aleppo Governate in Kurdish held territory. Anadolou Agency reported that, according to “trustworthy local sources” in the city of Manbij, “[One] base will be located eight kilometers (4.9 miles) from Sajur River, which forms the frontline between Jarabulus, the Euphrates Shield area, and Manbij.” Anadolou also stated that “the other base is being built four km (2.4 mi) from the frontline, south of Dadat.”
The media source also stated that, on April 1, 300 US soldiers arrived in Manbij along with a convoy of a large number of armored vehicles and machines for construction projects. As mentioned above, further reports have revealed that US forces have been patrolling the Sajur River on a daily basis. Previously, the patrols had reportedly taken places on a weekly basis.
The outlet also stated that US-backed forces are stationed in a “Nuaymiyah” farm and that they were engaged in construction work. The installation, once completed, will be “the closest US base to the Euphrates Shield forces.”
Representatives from the SDF spoke to Sputnik and confirmed that the US-led coalition had increased its presence in Manbij with both a US and French military contingent as well as a British deployment.
“The United States and France have increased the number of their military in Manbij following Turkey’s statements,” Helil Bozi, the commander of the Military Council of Manbij of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), stated to Sputnik Turkey.
“The US has deployed its Special Forces units near the Sajur River thereby setting a red line the crossing of which will be seen by the [US-led] coalition forces as an attack and will prompt retaliatory actions,” Bozi highlighted. “Our alliance with the forces of the coalition continues to operate, nothing has changed in this sense. The [US-led] coalition continues to support the SDF.”
Rezan Gulo, the Defense Minister of the Kurdish canton of Jazire of the self-proclaimed Rojava, also confirmed the presence of the US, UK, and France.
“The military contingent of the US, Britain and France is located not only in Manbij but also in Tell Abyad, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Tabqa within the framework of the [US-led] coalition’s assistance [to the SDF]. The coalition forces are increasing their presence throughout northern Syria,” he specified.
“Yes, the international coalition is building new bases in Manbij, and it is connected with military plans. … Be it US bases or French ones, we are interacting with it [the coalition] rather than the countries. In general, the construction of bases is underway in northern Syria, especially in the east of the Euphrates,” Gilo said.
“Whether the Americans will decide to leave or stay on [in Syria], we hope for their strength, as well as the strength of our people and our fighters. The presence of the US-led coalition helps us combat terrorists. But in any case, we are ready to obliterate the terrorists in the east of the Euphrates and in northern Syria as a whole,” he added.
Anadolou subsequently reported that French Special Forces were stationed at the US military base in Rmelan but that they were also stationed at five military bases in Kurdish territory.
The presence of the bases has since been confirmed by Reuters. You can see the photographs of the newly constructed facilities in the Reuters article here.
The Western strategy here is clear in that it is attempting to help carve out Kurdistan from Syrian territory in order to move forward with the “Plan B” of federalizing Syria in the event that the total destruction of the Syrian government fails. However, this plan puts two NATO allies, who were once united in their war on Syria, at odds with one another. With Turkey adamant that it will not accept a Kurdish “nation” on its borders and the US, France, and Britain seemingly doing whatever they can to create one, a stand off is taking shape in northern Syria. The question then remains whether or not Turkey and its fellow NATO members will turn their ever marching armies on one another or find a compromise that allows greater focus on aggression against non-Atlanticist states.