The United States is contemplating boosting its military footprint in northern Syria where America’s NATO partner Turkey is on the brink of seizing more territory from U.S.-allied Kurds.
Citing unnamed Trump administration officials, CNN notes that the American military is planning “to send dozens of additional US troops to northern Syria.”
The CNN report echoes recent comments from a Kurdish commander and an article from the state-owned Turkish media outlet Anadolu Agency, which said that the United States is already growing its presence in northern Syria.
The [U.S.] officials say the plans have been under discussion for several days and were first considered before President Donald Trump’s remarks last Thursday that the US would “be coming out of Syria like very soon.”
President Trump’s remarks reportedly caught the Pentagon and U.S. State Department by surprise.
Commenting on the Trump’s comments, Brett McGurk, the president’s special envoy for the American-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), indicated that the United States is engaged in a routine “review” of its activities in Syria per the commander-in-chief’s orders, stressing that the move is not affecting operations on the ground.
McGurk’s comments came during an event on Tuesday hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP).
As a partner of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, the United States finds itself on opposing sides from its NATO ally Turkey in northern Syria.
On January 20, Turkey launched an operation to push the U.S.-allied Kurds out of the territory they currently hold in Syria, arguing that they are partnered with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) terrorist group.
Northern Syria’s Afrin has already fallen to Turkey, and Ankara is now threatening to take the region’s Manbij area, home to a U.S. military presence.
“We’re in a very robust dialogue with Turkey about” defusing tensions in northern Syria so “we don’t have NATO ally on NATO ally,” Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, declared during the USIP discussion on Tuesday.
Consistent with the top general’s remarks, McGurk added, “We have a very good dialogue with the Turks,” later noting that the United States is “working through” the “extremely complex” situation.
Gen. Votel and McGurk insisted that the United States remains committed to the fight against ISIS in Syria, noting that the group remains a threat although the international coalition is “ahead” of where it expected to be at this point.