Russian mercenaries have taken over a US outpost in Syria. Earlier today a reporter embedded with the Russians published a video tour of the base which seemed to suggest the American forces had abandoned it in a hurry. The video is in Russian but the NY Times offered a transcription of some of the dialogue:
“Look at how they were preparing the base,” a Russian-speaking reporter said in a video shot inside an abandoned American outpost in northeastern Syria, its water tanks, communication towers, tents, and fridges full of soda all left behind. “They thought they were going to be here for a long time.”…
It remained unclear on Tuesday whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intended to keep his forces in the area indefinitely. But for Russia, the reshuffling of northeastern Syria, which had in recent years been a virtual American protectorate, yielded two main benefits. It empowered Mr. al-Assad, a longtime Russian patron, to accelerate his quest to regain control of all of Syria’s territory, and gave Mr. Putin another place to advertise Russia as a good friend to have in the Middle East.
Extracting US troops from Syria on short notice has been a challenge. Earlier today, Fox News reported that F-15s and Apache helicopters were sent to discourage Turkish forces who were advancing on US troops:
Turkish-backed forces came “very close” to U.S. troops in Syria just west of a coalition base in the northern Syrian town of Ain Issa Tuesday — so close that American jets and attack helicopters were called in to disrupt the approaching forces, a U.S official tells Fox News.
The Turkish-backed fighters “violated a standing agreement with the U.S. not to get close enough to threaten U.S. troops,” the official said.
Air Force F-15 fighters and Army Apache attack helicopters arrived on the scene. The Apache hovered between the U.S. troops and the approaching forces, just feet off the ground.
Business Insider spoke to a military official who had worked closely with the Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). The unnamed official expressed frustration at seeing Russia benefit from years of US efforts in the area:
“So not only is the most successful international counterterrorism operation in history finished, but the winners are Syria and Russia, who didn’t even participate in the operation,” the official said.
“The US and UK now can’t hope to save the anti-ISIS program, they can only hope their people get out of the way before they get hurt. It’s a demoralizing turnabout.”
Here’s the video taken inside the former US outpost: