US Troops Wrap up Mass Drills with Militants near Syria’s Al-Tanf Base
A commander of the Pentagon-backed Maghawir al-Thawra militant group said that the drills, which wrapped up near the US military base in the Syrian town of al-Tanf, were the first such exercises and involved hundreds of rebels and US marines.
“The exercises have great importance and have enhanced the defenses of the area and improved the combat capabilities and morale and that of civilians in the area,” Colonel Muhanad al- Talaa claimed, Sputnik reported.
US military Spokesman Sean Ryan, for his part, described the war games as a show of force, which he said were conducted “to reinforce our capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces within our area of operations.”
He added that the Pentagon used the so-called “de-confliction” channels to notify Russia of the drills in order to prevent “miscommunication or escalate tension.”
In August, the Russian Defense Ministry blamed the US military for harboring Daesh militants within the al-Tanf area, where a 55 km (35 mile)-radius “de-confliction zone” was established earlier.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has described the US military presence in the country as illegal, insisting that the American forces should withdraw from its base in al-Tanf.
In May, Bashar Jaafari, head of the Syrian government delegation to the Astana peace talks, called the US military presence in al-Tanf and nearby Rukban refugee camp in the south of the country a “pure aggression and occupation.”
The US military currently occupies a 34-mile zone around its base in al-Tanf, where it has been training Syrian opposition forces since 2016.
The base, however, has become the subject of criticism as Damascus and Moscow have expressed concerns that Washington was “spewing Daesh mobile groups who make inroads to launch subversive terrorist operations against Syrian troops and civilians.”