Reports have emerged this week that the US has begun construction of an airbase in Kurdish controlled northeast Syria. While there have been some earlier rumors of this claimed US airbase, a number of new reports have come out the week, adding weight to these claims.
So what do we know so far?
The airbase is reportedly located several kilometres south of the small town of Rimelan, part of a region in the far northeast corner of Syria, close to Iraqi Kurdistan which has been controlled by the YPG for more than 2 years.
The airstrip in question is a former agricultural runway which prior to construction works was a paved landing strip of around 700m in length.
According to a report in Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, the runway is planned to be expanded to 2500m in length and 250m in width.
Other reports suggest the under construction airbase will cover a ‘10 hectare’ area.
YPG news outlets have reported “unknown helicopters” flying close to the airbase.
Al Jazeera has reportedly spoken to an SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) media activist who claims that the US cut a deal with the YPG to use the base to support SDF operations against ISIS.
US CENTCOM has so far refused to confirm or deny reports of construction at this airfield.
More importantly, should the US indeed use the airbase to increase the level of air support which they provide to SDF forces, it would serve as a further indication that the US has chosen this group as their preferred ally in Syria, following the failure of other moderate forces in the country. Evidence of the role which the purported Rimelan Airbase will play will likely become more evident as the SDF gears up for their next offensive against ISIS, possibly directed towards the militant group’s stronghold of Al-Shaddadi.
It is important to note, ISIS held massive territory in Syria during a 14 month of alleged US bombing in which the foreign jihadis not just were not contained, but kept expanding their territory. The U.S. repeatedly air dropped thousands of tonnes of weapons into ISIS territory first claiming its pilots made a ‘mistake’ while later the Pentagon stated the weapons were for anti Assad “rebels”. The timing of US engagement is also quite dubious at best, considering ISIS has been devastated across Syria and has lost much of their territory after the launch of the Russian air campaign.
Furthermore, through locating an air base within Syria without its Government permission, the U.S. is both demonstrating it does not respect Syria’s territorial integrity which acording to the UN is defacto an aggresion and declaration of war against a sovereign state. Imagine the Chinese building an airbase in Washington DC!?
The move by the Americans is a signal for partition of Syria (think of Sudan), this is needed by the Pentagon to run a Qatari gas pipeline, which is why the Syrian conflict begun in the first place – Assad refused a U.S. demand to let a Qatari pipeline go through Syria on its way to Europe.