Russian forces have been seizing territory in northern Syria abandoned by U.S. troops, including the take over of an abandoned special operations outpost.
Russian journalists traveling alongside Russian mercenaries and Syrian government forces shared video of the Russian capture of an abandoned U.S. outpost in Manbij, northern Syria, the Washington Times reported on Tuesday. The movement of those Russian forces came shortly after President Donald Trump ordered the full removal of around 1,000 U.S. troops once stationed in the country.
Journalists for the Russian military news outlet ANNA News proclaimed “Manbij is ours” in a video segment showing detailed footage of Russia-backed forces exploring the abandoned outpost.
The outpost appeared to have been hastily abandoned, with U.S. military tents and various non-essential supplies and entertainment left behind. Personal belongings were also left behind, demonstrating the haste at which U.S. personnel prepared to leave the outpost.
Those U.S. troops once stationed at Manij appeared to at least expect Russian forces to take over the outpost as Russian journalists discovered a few crude messages left on a whiteboard for the Russian forces.
Officials at the Pentagon confirmed the withdrawal of those U.S. forces stationed in Manbij ahead of arriving Russian forces. Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops seemed to make way for a Turkish military incursion to oust Kurdish fighters in northern Syria and create a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Russia’s defense ministry confirmed Russian troops began entering frontline areas in the border region between Turkey and Syria on Tuesday. While Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight to maintain control during the Syrian Civil War, Russian officials said the latest military action is meant to prevent clashes between Turkish military forces and the Syrian government’s forces.
On Tuesday a Kremlin statement confirmed a phone conversation between President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to prevent clashes between Turkey and Syrian forces, as well as to prevent the escape of thousands of ISIS fighters currently held prisoner by Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Foreign policy commentators in the U.S. have raised concerns over the U.S. abandonment of Kurdish allies, as well as the threat Turkish military actions pose against those Kurdish fighters. The Turkish government has considered Kurdish groups a “terrorist” threat.
Over the weekend, Syrian government forces appeared to reach an agreement with the Kurdish militias to defend against the Turkish military offensive.
Kurdish groups handed the Syrian government control of key cities in exchange for protection from Turkish military forces, according to Newsweek.