QAMISHLO, Syrian Kurdistan,— On a secret trip to Syrian Kurdistan, the new commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Saturday he felt a moral obligation to enter a war zone to check on his troops and make his own assessment of progress in organizing Kurdish fighters and local Arab for what has been a slow campaign to push the Islamic State out of Syria.
“I have responsibility for this mission, and I have responsibility for the people that we put here,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel said in an interview as dusk fell on the remote outpost where he had arrived 11 hours earlier. “So it’s imperative for me to come and see what they’re dealing with – to share the risk they are dealing with.”
Votel, who has headed U.S. Central Command for just seven weeks, became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer known to have entered Syria since the U.S. began its campaign to counter the Islamic State in 2014. Votel flew into the Kurdish region in northern Syria from Iraq, where he had conferred on Friday with U.S. and Iraqi military commanders. In Syria he met with U.S. military advisers working with Syrian Arab fighters and consulted with leaders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces SDF supported by the U.S.So much for the claims of Turkmen belonging to Turkey and Erdogan! Certainly the Kurds and Turkmen alliance was mentioned at the blog previously.
CENTCOM Commander Joseph Votel and other U.S. military officials visited the Kurdish city of Kobani and met with Kurdish-led Democratic Syria Forces commanders and political officials, local media reported.
Votel’s visit is the first military visit to Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) at the highest level.
The SDF is an alliance, formed in October 2015, of the powerful Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) with smaller Arab, Christian and Turkmen militias in a coalition intended to take on Islamic State.
The Kurdish YPG forces, which the U.S. and Russia consider an ally in the fight against Islamic State, is the most effective group fighting IS in Syria, as the Kurdish militia has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.Annexed Syrian land from Syria
Votel’s flight into Syria was the first made in daylight by U.S. forces, who have about 200 advisers on the ground in Syrian Kurdistan. Military ground rules for the trip prohibited reporting the kind of aircraft Votel used, the exact location of where he landed and the names and images of the U.S. military advisers, who said they have been operating from the camp since January.
The last known high-level U.S. official to visit Syrian Kurdistan was Brett McGurk, Obama’s envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State. He spent two days in Syria in late January, including a tour of Kobani, the small Kurdish town near the Turkish border where Kurdish fighters backed by U.S. airstrikes had expelled an entrenched group of Islamic State fighters a year earlier.
Votel said his visit had hardened his belief that the U.S. is taking the right approach to developing local forces to fight IS, an acronym for the Islamic State.The US is trying to increase the Arab fighters- LOL. SDF has always been predominantly as in almost entirely Kurdish PKK/YPG
“I left with increased confidence in their capabilities and our ability to support them,” he said. “I think that model is working and working well.”
The U.S. is supporting what it calls the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is predominantly comprised of Syrian Kurds, numbering at least 25,000 fighters, with a smaller element of Syrian Arabs, numbering perhaps 5,000 to 6,000. The U.S. is trying to increase the Arab numbers.
Qarhaman Hasan, the deputy commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, said he has given the Americans a list of his most pressing needs. Atop his list: armored vehicles, heavy weapons like machine guns, as well as rocket launchers and mortars.They have an army- And they've been airdropped weapons by the US. As well as smuggled weapons through Turkish and Iraqi territory via their PKK bretheren. With the airport in Qamishlo and the US flying in and out of there- The PKK/YPG terror crowd can make greater demands for even more weapons because it will be much easier to have them delivered.
“We’re creating an army,” he said through an interpreter, and have had to rely on smuggling to get weapons.