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Published On: Thu, Jul 13th, 2017

Kurdish Corridor: US troops are operating in Raqqa, Colonel Ryan Dillon admitted

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Colonel Ryan Dillon confirmed what observers of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ push to liberate Raqqa from ISIS have known all along. U.S. troops, including special forces are operation in Raqqa, Syria, alongside local forces including the predominantly Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Although some media act as if Colonel Dillon’s admission came as a surprise, nsnbc international has consistently reported about the presence of U.S. special operations forces in Syria and their functions since 2011.

US Marines and special forces in northern Syria_2016_Archives_Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS said that the U.S.’ troops in Raqqa include special operations forces. He added that these troops are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the predominantly Syrian – Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces in the battle against ISIS.

In June, at the onset of the operaton to liberate Raqqa the Syrian – Kurdish People’s Defense Forces (YPG) reported that the war for the liberation of the city will begin with the participation of the Army of Revolutionaries (Jaysh al-Thuwar), Jabhat al-Akrad, Democratic al-Shamal Brigades, Tribal Forces, Maghawir Humus Brigades, Siqur al-Raqqa, Liwa al-Tahrir, Seljuk Turkmen Brigade, Hamam Turkmen Martyrs Battalion, Sanadid Forces, Syriac Military Council, Manbij Military Council, Deir ez-Zor Military Council, Self-Defense Forces, Asayish Forces, YPG/YPJ and Nuxbe Forces. The YPG and the all-female Women’ s Defense Forces (YPJ) are the main SDF constituent.

SDF announce start of the operation to liberate Raqqa. Photo courtesy YPG.

SDF announce start of the operation to liberate Raqqa. Photo courtesy YPG.

The SDF are currently in the process of liberating the de-factor capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and have seized about 22 – 25 percent of the city from ISIS.

Col. Dillon stressed that the U.S. troops there don’t have a direct combat role; but that they are calling in air strikes, and are working “closer to the fight than did U.S. forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul”.

Col. Dillon added, however, that the U.S. troops in Raqqa are “much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq” and that the number of U.S. troops in Raqqa were “not hundreds”.

SDF troops in Raqqa city

SDF troops in Raqqa city

Dillon noted that ISIS, over the course of the last weeks, has been using commercial drones rigged with explosives to attack SDF troops.

 He added that this has increased as the SDF and supporting U.S. troops have continued to push in closer inside Raqqa city and toward the city center.

Colonel Dillon’s statement about U.S. troops in Raqqa not being in the hundreds may be taken with a healthy grain of salt and critical thinking.

For one, operational details about special operations forces such as strength are only rarely disclosed. Moreover, U.S. special operations forces are also operating in other parts of Syria, including in the Iraq – Syria – Jordan tri-border area.

The estimated number of U.S. special operations forces and marines in Syria is likely to be between 400 and 800, with the capacity to call in more – if or when needed on relatively short notice – from Iraq, Jordan, as well as Turkey or even Germany.

Photo of U.S. Senator John McCain meeting illegally in a rebel safe house with the heads of the “Free Syrian Army” in Idlib, Syria in April, 2013. In the left foreground, top al Qaeda terrorist leader Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Al-Baghdadi of ISIS, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim of the recently founded Islamic State with whom the Senator is talking. Behind Badri is visible Brigadier General Salim Idris (with glasses), the former military chief of the FSA, who has since fled to the Gulf states after the collapse of any semblance of the FSA.

Photo of U.S. Senator John McCain meeting illegally in a rebel safe house with the heads of the “Free Syrian Army” in Idlib, Syria in April, 2013. In the left foreground, top al Qaeda terrorist leader Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Al-Baghdadi of ISIS, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim of the recently founded Islamic State with whom the Senator is talking. Behind Badri is visible Brigadier General Salim Idris (with glasses), the former military chief of the FSA, who has since fled to the Gulf states after the collapse of any semblance of the FSA.

The SDF launched the operation to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State on June 6, 2017. Raqqa has been known as the de facto capital of ISIS  (ISIL, IS, Daesh), since the summer of 2014.

Ironically (and according to many analyst not coincidentally) both the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other “coalition partners” initially perceived, in some cases directly supported ISIS as “opposition against the Assad regime”.

The U.S. largely avoids being specific about its legal mandate for operations in Syria. The main claim for the alleged legality of the operations of U.S. trops in Syria is self-defense.

The US’s unofficial claim is very similar to the official position held by the Norwegian government. Norway also has special operations forces in Syria. Basically, the argument is that Iraq has invited U.S. and other troops to fight ISIS, that ISIS poses a global threat, and that the Syrian Arab Republic may not be capable of combating ISIS alone.

There exists no (officially known) agreement between the USA and Syria, nor is the a UN Security Council mandate.

U.S. special operations forces in Syria since 2012

SFIn February 2012 nsnbc international published a copy of the otherwise restricted special forces Training Circular TC 18-01 that explains in detail the “irregular warfare strategy” used by U.S. special operations forces in targeted countries. It has been a valuable tool for nsnbc international to forecast strategic developments in Syria (and Iraq) with at times stunning accuracy. Find the full version published HERE.

In 2015 it became increasingly obvious that U.S. special operations forces were beginning to operate more closely with Syrian – Kurdish YPG / YPJ forces, which NATO partner Turkey designates as terrorists allied and on par with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK).

The establishment of a Kurdish State with breathing straw access to the Mediterranean. Map plottings by Major (r) Agha H. Amin. (2012)

The establishment of a Kurdish State with breathing straw access to the Mediterranean. Map plottings by Major (r) Agha H. Amin. (2012)

nsnbc international chief editor Christof Lehmann (this author) received copy of the TC 18-01 and information about the presence of U.S. special operations forces operating in Syria in 2012.

Also in 2012 a senior British Whitehall official would leak to The Daily Star that British SAS and other NATO member’s special forces had been operating in Syria for months. In a 2012 nsnbc interview retired Pakistani Major and security consultant Agha H. Amin would note:

The strategic idea of NATO, is aiming at securing the northern borders of Israel against Hezbollah and the southern borders against Hamas; to eliminate the Russian naval base in the eastern Mediterranean, Syrian city of Tartous. NATO is planning to create a western strategic corridor to maintain energy-security in the case that oil supplies through the Strait of Hormuz are disrupted because of a war with Iran or otherwise… One of the first steps toward the implementation of the long-term strategic plan, is the partition of Turkey by creating separate Kurdish areas, thereby providing NATO a direct access to Russia’s soft underbelly in the Caucasus.

One of the objectives with unconventional / irregular warfare in Syria was “plausible deniability” – a factor that has become less important since the U.S. went on the record saying it had troops in Syria.

The at least “former” strategic partnership with ISIS as “cooperative agonist” , however, is still being denied, despite overwhelming evidence – as documented in numerous articles in nsnbc international.

Two of the articles best suited to summarize this fact are “ISIS Unveiled: The Identity of The Insurgency in Syria and Iraq” from June 2014, and the June 2014 article entitled “U.S. Embassy in Ankara Headquarter for ISIS War on Iraq – Hariri Insider

CH/L – nsnbc 13.07.2017

nsnbc international is primarily financed by donations from readers like you. A modest monthly donation equivalent to the price of one print newspaper from readers like you helps us cover some of our most important bills. The donate button is in the right column. Thank you so much for using it. Christof Lehmann, nsnbc international editor-in-chief and founder of nsnbc.

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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