Tabnak – While according to the previous positions taken by the US officials it was anticipated that the next phase of American operation takes place in Raqqa against the terrorists, it seems that the US is now more and more concentrating its efforts to combat forces loyal to the Syrian government in the area close the Iraqi border.
Over the past several days, the US military has been increasing its combat power at a remote training facility near the Tanf border crossing in Syria in preparation to combat forces loyal to the Syrian government, according to Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve.
The training facility at Tanf rests near a strategic border crossing between Syria and Iraq and houses a couple hundred coalition and partner forces. Military Times reports that on May 18, coalition jets launched a strike against a pro-government convoy that wanted to cross the area.
In a separate report, ABC News writes that the US has warned the pro-governments groups that they are inside and around a "deconfliction zone" established by the US and Russia. Deconfliction is the term the Pentagon uses to describe its contacts with Russia to ensure there are no misunderstandings about each country’s operations in Syria.
Now, the US has used its deconfliction channel to communicate with the Russians once again that it wants those forces out of the zone, Dillon said. Separately, a US official confirmed that the Russians have passed on the message to the pro-government forces.
Reuters notes that this southeastern area of the Syrian desert, known as the Badia, has become an important front in Syria's civil war between pro-government forces and the rebels. They are competing to capture land held by ISIS, which is retreating as it comes under intense attack in Iraq and along Syria's Euphrates basin.
US-backed rebels took Tanf from ISIS last year, and regional intelligence sources say they mean to use it as a launch-pad to capture Bukamal, a town on Syria's border with Iraq and an important terrorist supply route. At the same time, Damascus has declared the Badia and Deir al-Zor priorities in its campaign to re-establish control over Syria.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the Iraqi popular forces have started their operation along the Syrian border to purge the area from ISIS terrorists. Some analysts believe that this could be another reason behind latest US moves to consolidate the rebels’ positions in the area.
Iraqi Joint Command announced yesterday that the pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd Al-Sha’abi) kicked off its Syrian border offensive. The Popular Mobilization Unit will clear the ISIS’ last border points from the Sinjar area to the strategic town of Al-Qa’im, which is the location of the terrorist group’s main supply route to Syria’s Deir al-Zor Governorate.
However, the current situation on the ground indicates that although the US claims that it’s attempting to help the rebels establish their positions, their actions – at least in the border area with Iraq – would benefit the terrorists more than others, as it could weaken the positions of groups currently combating the terrorists.