The Pentagon announced this weekend that President Barack Obama has approved the deployment of 200 additional U.S. troops to Syria amid reports that the embattled city of Aleppo had nearly fallen to Russia and Iran-backed forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
By Monday, the fight for the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the capital of a province of the same name, “has reached its end” with the retreat of anti-Assad rebels from the opposition-controlled eastern part of the city, declared Rami Abdulrahman, director of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), on Monday.
The Observatory uses a network of sources on the ground to monitor the Syrian conflict.
Besides the Assad regime claiming early Monday that it had captured 98 percent of Aleppo, the Russian- and Iran-backed Syrian government has not commented on the Observatory’s report that the fight for the city is over, notes Sky News.
Aleppo city had been roughly divided between Assad regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since 2012.
“Families got together waiting death together. This is what’s happening,” one activist wrote in a WhatsApp message to journalists on Monday, referring to civilians in Aleppo, reports the Independent.
“They [rebels] don’t have much time. They either have to surrender or die,” added Lt. Gen. Zaid al-Saleh, chief of the Assad regime’s Aleppo security committee.
The Obama administration had little reaction to the massacre of civilians and the overall conflict in Aleppo despite the presence of U.S.-backed rebels in the city.
During a visit to Bahrain on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that President Obama has authorized increasing the number of American troops in Syria to 500 by deploying 200 more.
The primary purpose of the additional troops is to assist tens of thousands of Kurdish and Arab fighters preparing for an offensive to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de-facto capital in Syria, in an effort to deal the terrorist group “a lasting defeat,” revealed Carter.
Speaking at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, which is organized by the British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Pentagon chief said on Saturday:
To ensure the success of isolating Raqqa, generate sufficient local forces to seize Raqqa, and deny ISIL sanctuary beyond Raqqa, I can tell you today that the United States will deploy approximately 200 additional U.S. forces to Syria, including special operations forces trainers, advisors, and explosive ordnance disposal teams.
These uniquely skilled operators will join the 300 U.S. special operations forces already in Syria, to continue organizing, training, equipping, and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces to take the fight to ISIL, and are also bringing down the full weight of U.S. forces around the theater of operations like the funnel of a giant tornado.
Carter made the announcement a few days after the Russia-Iran-Syria coalition claimed that it had taken over nearly 93 percent of Aleppo.
Early on Monday, the Assad regime reportedly claimed it had seized 98 percent of the provincial capital city.
SOHR Director Abdulrahman ultimately said rebels have withdrawn from the last six neighborhoods they controlled in eastern Aleppo, notes Sky News.
“As day broke, the Russians, Syrians and the Observatory claimed ever diminishing amounts of territory were under the control of rebels who had held the territory for over four years,” it also reports.
Near the end the day Sunday, a spokesman for Syrian opposition fighters quoted by Sky News conceded that they were retreating, describing the collapse of rebel-held Aleppo as “terrifying.”
“If Assad and his allies think that a military advance in certain quarters of Aleppo will signify that we will make concessions, then [I say] that will not happen,” declared Riad Hijab, chief opposition coordinator in Syria.
According to a recent assessment by various sources such as the Observatory, up to 13,000 civilians have fled eastern Aleppo in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number who have escaped the carnage to nearly 130,000.
In Syria, President Obama’s threats against the Assad regime have proven to be empty.
The U.S. president has only authorized strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda-linked groups.
“The CIA and [U.S. military] have said that the fall of Aleppo [to Russian-backed Assad troops] would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria,” The Washington Post learned from an anonymous senior administration official earlier this year.
U.S.-backed forces are simultaneously fighting to push ISIS out of its major strongholds in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.
“The inevitable collapse of ISIL’s control over Mosul and Raqqa will certainly put ISIL on a path to a lasting defeat – but there will still be much more to do after that to make sure that, once defeated, ISIL stays defeated,” Carter said in Bahrain.