U.S. Special Forces teams are reportedly training and fighting alongside Syrian rebel groups in the southern part of that country, according to a recent BuzzFeed News report.
Special Forces are deployed to southern Syria “as part of an operation to train and assist Syrian rebels fighting ISIS, according to rebel leaders and current and former U.S. military officials,” BuzzFeed reported.
The recent deployment has reportedly been ongoing for about six months, according to the report. It is “centered on a base called Tanf near the Iraqi border,” and “[e]xperts say the region, which stretches along Jordan and Iraq, is a developing center of gravity for ISIS as it loses territory elsewhere,” BuzzFeed reported.
American troops are reportedly training two pro-Western rebel groups and accompanying them on combat missions, according to BuzzFeed. Buzzfeed also reported that these missions are part of the anti-ISIS campaign developed under then-President Barack Obama and continued under President Donald Trump’s administration.
The rebel battalion stationed at Tanf is called Maghaweir Al-Thowra, or Commandos of the Revolution, with the aim of working with the U.S.-backed coalition to free Deir Ezzor from ISIS; Deir Ezzor is a province in eastern Syria that has become an ISIS stronghold, according to the report.
The battalion’s commander, Mohannad Ahmed al-Tallaa, said the rebels started working with the American troops at the base last year, BuzzFeed reported, and that the troops accompany the battalion regularly on operations.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a rebel official said American troops have also participated in operations alongside a second rebel group, Shuhada al-Qaryatayn, according to the report.
A Syrian analyst at the Center for a New American Security, Nick Heras, told BuzzFeed that “the area where these U.S. troops have been operating is becoming increasingly important to the war on ISIS as the group’s fighters are pushed from their strongholds elsewhere. The U.S. military ‘assesses that the area of the city of Deir al-Zour to the Syrian-Iraqi border is the new center of gravity for ISIS,’ he said, adding that the U.S. hopes to squeeze in on Deir Ezzor from Abu Kamal. ‘One place to stage an operation on Albu Kamal is via the Syrian Desert, and Tanf is critical to that.’ ”
According to Heras, American forces have been working with opposition groups for more than two years, and “[w]hile neither Shuhada al-Qaryatayn nor Maghaweir Al-Thowra are particularly powerful, they are willing to fight ISIS first, and are willing to be trained by American forces,” BuzzFeed reported.