US military meets with Kurdish officials in northeast Syria

AFP , Saturday 2 Nov 2019

US troops drives by in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli
A fighter with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands on the side of a road as a convoy of US troops drives by in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli, in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on November 2, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

US military vehicles Saturday entered a Kurdish-held area in northeastern Syria and met with officials, AFP correspondents and a local source said. The visit is  the second since the US announced its pullout from the Turkish border area.

Beige-coloured armoured vehicles flying the American flag pulled up at the headquarters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces outside the city of Qamishli.

They also passed by the People's Protection Units (YPG) who have spearheaded the SDF, and Kurdish security forces in the area.

Two days earlier, a similar US convoy was seen further east along the border, outside the town of Qahtaniyah, in an area they used to operate in before Washington announced a military pullout last month.

A US-led coalition has for years backed the SDF in fighting the Islamic State group, but the announcement of an American withdrawal triggered a deadly Turkish invasion against the Kurds on October 9.

A source who took part in one of the Kurdish-US meetings on Saturday said the Americans wanted to return to Qamishli.

"They're coming to set up a major military post in Qamishli," the source told AFP.

The coalition declined to comment specifically on Saturday's visit, but said the alliance continued to withdraw forces from northern Syria.

It would relocate some troops to oil-rich eastern Syria to held stamp out remaining IS fighters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, says Washington also still has forces in a base near Rmeilan, a town further east along the border.

Under a ceasefire deal signed last week, joint Turkish-Russian patrols started on Friday in the area.

Syrian regime forces have also made a major comeback in the northeast for the first time in years, after they were called in by the Kurds to fill the void left by US troops.

Syria's war has spiralled into a complex conflict involving word powers since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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