US Forces Leave Parts of Syria's Raqqa, French Troops Set to Move In - Reports
20:39 04.04.2018(updated 20:41 04.04.2018)
A convoy of US military vehicles carrying combat personnel entered the oil-rich province of al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria this afternoon, after withdrawing from their positions in Raqqa province, according to Al Masdar News, citing reports from local activists.
The reports specified that the contingent of troops were previously stationed in northwestern parts of the Raqqa Governorate, not the provincial capital, and are now positioned in the border city of Ras al-Ayn in al-Hasakah province.
Soldiers from the French Army entered the city of Manbij – which has been identified as a future target for Turkey's cross-border military operation in Syria – and the border town of Tell Abyad, on April 3, after US troops withdrew to other SDF-controlled parts of the country.
The rotation of US forces with French troops offers a likely explanation to US President Donald Trump's comments about leaving Syria "to let others take care of it," though this is yet to be confirmed by anyone in his administration.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently vowed to side with the Kurdish-dominated SDF, which has been battling Turkey-backed forces in Afrin after the Turkish Army launched operation Olive Branch in January.
The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned Turkey's offensive on its soil as a breach of its sovereignty.
Turkey considers the SDF to have ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) – which has long been designated a terror organization by the EU, the US, and Turkey – and believes the group's presence near its southern border poses a national security threat.
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