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Turkish media reveals half of French bases in Syria to get gaps in defenses once US troops withdraw

Turkish media reveals half of French bases in Syria to get gaps in defenses once US troops withdraw
US troops pulling out of Syria have been manning several of France’s bases there, Turkish state media reported, while exposing locations of 9 French-occupied sites. It implied that Paris soon won’t be able to defend Syrian Kurds.

There are at least nine French bases scattered across northern Syria, according to the investigation carried out by Anadolu Agency. France apparently expanded its presence since March, when the media counted only five French military facilities.

At least four of the French bases in northern Syria are also manned by the withdrawing US troops, the report says. The other five would also be left more vulnerable since France can only “ensure their continued mobility by relying on” US troops or YPG militia for support.

“Under current circumstances, France does not seem to be able to provide a similar level of support to the YPG / PKK by filling the gap that will arise from the withdrawal of the US from Syria,” it adds.

Also on rt.com US troops withdraw from first base in Syria – report

While the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria has been relying on Kurdish militias on the ground, Ankara sees the YPG, or People’s Protection Units, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which it considers terrorist and blames for attacks at home.

France has been secretive on its operations in Syria, saying only that about 1,100 soldiers serve in the Middle East. The exact numbers of troops in Syria haven’t been revealed, even since the Operation Chammal started in Syria back in September 2015.

On December 19 US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US troops – some 2,000 – from Syria, citing the “defeat” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). The withdrawal is reportedly to take between two and three months. So far the US troops abandoned only one base in north-eastern Syria, according to Turkish media.

READ MORE: Pentagon mulls allowing Kurdish militias to keep weapons after US withdrawal from Syria – report

France, the US’ key Middle East partner was clearly bemused, with Emmanuel Macron calling the move unbecoming of any “ally,” since they should be “reliable” and “fight shoulder to shoulder.” “I very deeply regret the decision made on Syria,” Macron said, promising that Paris will continue its operations in Syria.

Though Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria may be “a boon for peace” in the long-term, in the short-term the move may escalate the conflict, journalist Finian Cunningham wrote in an op-ed to RT. “The danger of conflict stems from NATO ally Turkey viewing the US pullout as an opportunity to launch an offensive on Syrian Kurdish separatists,” he said. 

Pressure keeps mounting in northern Syria as Ankara has been threatening to crush the Kurdish resistance in the area. On Saturday reports emerged that the Turkish Army deployed additional tanks and APCs to the border provinces. The forces are being moved amid tensions over the strategic Kurdish-held city of Manbij as Damascus said it was sending troops there.

READ MORE: ‘Land swap’ between Turkey & Syria – an option to avoid standoff over Manbij?

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