US confirms it has combat troops on the ground in Syria

Israeli analysts say US policy is designed to bolster the Kurdish militia in Syria and prevent an Iranian land corridor that reaches the Mediterranean Sea.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The United States has for the first time officially acknowledged that there are American combat troops on the ground in Syria and says they will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the announcement on Wednesday declaring that the troops are deployed to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) and to counter the Assad regime. Speaking at Stanford University, Tillerson also said the deployment is open-ended and intended to help create greater stability in country’s Kurdish-controlled region.

In point of fact, US advisors have been training moderate rebel forces in Syria in small numbers for several years. The Trump administration has now publicly declared that there are now some 2,000 combat troops on the ground. Tillerson said, “A total withdrawal of American personnel at this time would help Assad to continue his brutal treatment against his own people. A murderer of his own people cannot generate the trust required for long-term stability.”

Dr. Mordechai Kedar from the Besa Center told World Israel News (WIN), “The Americans have been in Syria for some time, but now they are publicly declaring their presence and their intentions. The overall goal is to prevent a hostile land passage from Iran and Iraq through Syria that reaches all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.”

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The US ground troops compliment American air force patrols over eastern Syria. The troops are working alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia of about 30,000 troops that is dominated by mostly Kurdish fighters and operates in the 28% of Syria it is estimated to control.

Dr. Gerald Steinberg from Bar Ilan University told WIN, “Unlike the Obama Administration, the current US government is actively countering moves by Turkey, Russia and Iran in Syria, and they are doing so by investing considerable manpower and support for Kurdish forces.”

Turkey fears Kurdish opposition

The US/Kurdish force is meeting opposition from Turkey. While Ankara is a fierce opponent of the Assad regime, they are also concerned about Kurdish control in Syria that includes an area that borders on their country. Turkey says that it is totally unacceptable that the US-led coalition is building a “border security force” that works with Kurdish militiamen.

President Tayyip Erdogan is threatening to launch a military operation into the Kurdish controlled areas and said, “The assault on the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria will be in the coming days.” Little credence is given to the Erdogan threat because an invasion of Kurdish areas in Syria could result in direct combat with US troops.

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Under President Obama, there were only a small number of US military advisors on the ground. Now the US is confirming that it is providing ground support for the Kurdish militias and their ultimate goal could be the creation of a Kurdish province in Syria that will serve as a permanent buffer against Iranian advances.

Tillerson cited other US goals in Syria that include supporting the political process  there, such as the removal of President Assad from office, and helping refugees to return home after years of civil war.