In December last year, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military’s general staff and deputy defense minister accused the U.S. of using its Al-Tanf base in Southern Syria to train Daesh operatives to attempt to foment further instability.
Moscow further stated that the U.S. was gathering former Daesh fighters in order to regroup the militants under a new name, based on satellite intelligence and other sources. Gerasimov also claimed the U.S. had moved up to 400 fighters from the Kurdish-controlled city of Al-Shaddadi in the North East of Syria to the U.S.’s unilateral de-confliction zone in the southern region of Al-Tanf.
In February of this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, urged the US to shut down this de-confliction zone in southern Syria, on account of the fact that Washington had, by implication, created a safe haven for Daesh affiliate groups.
This zone also contains the Rukban refugee camp, which Moscow claims is populated with covert terrorist operatives. Russian intelligence has also observed raids being conducted from this camp into other regions of Syria. Russia also claims that the US military presence in Syria is tantamount to occupation, which contradicts international law and lacks any authorisation by the Assad government.
In further developments, Russia also released evidence that revealed that US forces deployed in Dayr al-Zawr’s border regions and in Jordan have been collaborating with Daesh and their affiliates by providing them with intelligence about Russian and Syrian operations.
Regrettably, once again these developments have reared their head as Lavrov has again commented on the de-escalation zone in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta and the training of militants in the vicinity of Al-Tanf. The training exercises are in violation of the ceasefire agreements fire, never mind the efficacy of doing this in the first place. Once again allegations are centred on the US military base in Syria in the al-Tanf garrison, where training of armed Syrian opposition forces is being conducted, together with the provision of equipment.
Whilst none of this should come as any surprise to anyone, the reality is that the US continues to expand its military presence in Syria, whereby in the territory controlled by the people’s self-defence units of Kurdistan in Northern Syria, twenty US military bases have been created and additional troops drafted in from Iraq very recently. This is in stark contrast to Trump’s recent announcement that the US should seek to remove its troops and by extension, military presence in Syria. This all suggests that there is anything but harmony in the Trump administration with respect to US foreign military policy in particular.