The situation in northern Syria since President Trump’s announcement of U.S. troops’ withdrawal was chaotic. The beginning the Turkish offensive put the U.S. and other Western special operations forces, who were operating under Coalition Joint Special Operations Task Force, at risk that they could be trapped between Turkish, Kurdish and even Syrian and Russian units, British Express reported.
Concern was so severe that it reportedly partly prompted the five-day cease-fire negotiated by US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. American, British and French special forces were forced to abandon a FOB (forward operating base) and make their way by road for an airfield south of Kobani, just hours after apparently Russian contractors ransacked an abandoned US contractor base nearby.
At the same time, the contingent of the 50 British operators, including SAS, were trapped at a Kobani cement factory used to mount joint operations against remaining Islamic State militants in the region.
Major General Gerald ‘Gez’ Strickland, a former Gurkha officer and the deputy commander of regional Coalition forces, was last night kept closely informed of the situation. He serves as the British senior officer in Iraq.
The whole plans to evacuate the remaining operators from northern Syria were put on hold after fighting between Kurdish forces and Turkish-backed militia forced US commanders to contact the Pentagon. The first plan was to evacuate operators using C-130 Hercules aircraft.
A senior military source said: “No one had a chance to get out of Syria in a balanced and sensible order.”
The remaining U.S. forces in the Syria have dozens of MRAP mine-proof vehicles with state-of-the-art communications that need to be airlifted. The plan is to airlift some of them, but there is apparently no space for all of them. Those left will need to be destroyed by US warplanes to deny them to hostile forces.