|RT | Mar 31, 2017|
|© RT / Lizzie Phelan / RT|
While exploring the northern side of the SDF-controlled part of the Tabqa dam, the RT crew – which became the first international news channel to film there – managed to catch a glimpse of US soldiers embedded with the Wrath of Euphrates operation.
Besides capturing what Kurds called American artillery pounding the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) targets, RT’s Lizzie Phelan also noticed US Marines at the northern entrance to the Tabqa dam.
On camera, the Kurds refused to discuss the US troops and asked RT to stop filming. Off camera, however the SDF fighters openly talked about how, for some time, the Americans have been alongside them on the frontlines in fighting ISIS.
When asked what role the American’s are playing in Tabqa, one SDF fighter replied: “Let me tell you something about the Americans, I can’t talk about it…”
“It’s the Americans firing,” another fighter explained after hearing mortar fire in a distance. “The Americans are on the other side and mortars were fired at them, then the Americans came to check the position of the mortar launchers.”
Hundreds of US marines deployed to #Syria filmed on the move ahead of #Raqqa operation— RT (@RT_com) 10 March 2017
The northern part of the Tabqa Dam is under the control of Syrian Democratic forces, backed by American troops. The terrorists, however, still control the most crucial parts of the dam in the south, which includes the floodgates, the control room and the hydroelectric plant.
A video recently released by IS terrorists showed the damage an alleged coalition strike had caused to the dam and an unexploded missile inside the devastated control room.
Red Crescent engineers who tried2 assess damage in ISIS held part of Tabqa dam fired at again had to turn back VIDEO https://t.co/qFb5df3qj4— Lizzie Phelan (@LizziePhelan) March 30, 2017
Should the dam suffer major damage during the anti-IS operation and collapse, it would be a disaster for the entire region which could kill thousands and flood the city of Raqqa.
Recapturing the dam is also vital for US-led forces in isolating the area around Raqqa and eventually take the city. US Marines along with their military equipment arrived in northern Syria earlier this year to help the SDF, a multi-ethnic force consisting of Kurdish and Arab fighters to prepare for the offensive.
The US troops were officially sent into the Syrian war theatre by the Obama Administration to “train, advise and assist,” and Washington has promised to keep American soldiers out of harm's way and away from the frontline.
But with the arrival of the new Donald Trump administration that role is seemingly shifting towards closer engagement with the enemy. While initial deployment has seen roughly 50 US special forces personnel sent to Syria in 2015, over the years, that number has expanded significantly. There are roughly 1,000 US special operations forces, Marines and Army Rangers in Northern Syria today – and that number might soon grow even larger.
Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, US Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command said more American troops might be needed to support the SDF offensive to capture Raqqa.
“We have recognized that as we continue to pursue our military objectives in Syria, we are going to need more direct all-weather fire support capability for our Syrian Democratic Force partners,” Votel told the committee. “We have not taken our eye off what our principle mission is, which is to advise and assist and enable our partners ... Help our partners fight, but not fight for them.”
Currently an estimated 3,000–3,500 ISIS fighters remain in Raqqa, the US coalition told Newsweek earlier this week. According to reports, the US might be planning to help the Kurds surround Raqqa, while the Arab forces of the SDF would lead the effort to recapture the city.
That policy would be consistent with Ankara’s aspirations, as Turkey, who just ended its own Euphrates Shield operation, firmly objects to arming the Kurds or somehow helping them form a quasi-state on its borders.
#Kurds ‘will be involved’ in liberating #Raqqa from ISIS – US general https://t.co/rJDBW1dHlbpic.twitter.com/NGeGbYRlkE— RT (@RT_com) 1 March 2017
The Syrian leader said the US “didn’t succeed anywhere they sent troops, they only create a mess; they are very good in creating problems and destroying, but they are very bad in finding solutions,” he said, as cited by state news agency SANA.