United States would have deployed more troops in Syria

While president Trump has announced he is considering pulling the US forces out of Syria, the same forces are reported to reinforce their positions and personnel in the northern Syrian city of Manbij to confront any potential Turkish military operation for which the city might be a battlefield in the war against Kurdish militias. 

United States would have deployed more troops in Syria with combat vehicles 925 001
5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria. (Picture source U.S. MoD)

According to local sources of the Middle East Monitor, the reinforcements include around 300 soldiers in addition to armored vehicles and heavy equipment. “The US brought the reinforcements from its base in the town of Sarrin, in the northern countryside near Aleppo,” they explained.

The US forces in Syria currently operate three surveillance points on the line separating the territory covered by Turkey’s Operation “Euphrates Shield” and the PKK-controlled areas in the villages of Tokhar, Al-Haluwaniyah and Dadat. Over the past three days, US forces have started patrolling the area on the Sajur River and along the Syrian-Turkish border.

This US activity upsets Turkey whose president has called upon the US to expel the PKK from the Arab-dominated city of Manbij and hand over the area to its “real” owners. An issue is this: the PKK is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and has occupied the city of Manbij since August 2016, with the support of US forces, as part of the war against Daesh.

Therefore, can one expect a military clash, be it under cover, between US and Turkish forces? Last week, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced the failure of ongoing talks with the Turkish government over the situation in Manbij.

The fact is that the US military has been working on plans to send dozens of additional US troops to northern Syria, according to several US defense and administration officials. The plans were first discussed before Trump’s announcement about pulling out of Syria “soon”. But the planning hasn’t been scrapped yet. Will it be? At the Pentagon, many military and civilian planners are puzzled by Trump’s announcement, leaving them in uncertainty about what to do.

A National Security Council meeting took place yesterday, 4 April, to further discuss the administration's plan for battling ISIS in Syria and the some 2,000 US troops deployed in the war-torn country. Reinforcement? Pulling out? What else? At least a “tiny” and “temporary” reinforcement aiming at protecting the forces currently deployed.

Interestingly, this discussion took place while US and British soldiers were killed in a IED blast in Manbij, Syria. The soldiers killed were operating in a classified mission to "kill or capture a known ISIS member", according to Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway. The US military is releasing few details about the mission that killed US Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar and British Sgt. Matt Tonroe. Five other troops were also wounded in a March 30 IED blast.

To make it short, what is to be expected in the Syrian messy theatre of operations where NATO, US, Turkish, Kurd, “rebel” (many different groups, ranging from non-muslim to ISIS trends), Syrian government, Russian, and Iranian interests do not precisely converge?