Albin Szakola

US preparing airbase in
northeast Syria: reports

A Lebanese daily and a local Kurdish outlet allege that US technicians are supervising work on an airfield in the Hasakeh town of Rimelan.

US Blackhawk helicopters in operation. (AFP/Raed Qutena)

BEIRUT – The US is preparing an airbase in northeastern Syria as a conduit of supplies for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition fighting ISIS, according to a pro-Damascus newspaper and a local Kurdish outlet.


Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported Friday morning that US experts were “close to finishing the preparation of an agricultural airport” in a region of eastern Hasakeh controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).


“American technicians have worked for more than one and a half months to expand and prepare the airport with a runway specialized for warplanes. Its length reaches 2500 meters and its width 250 meters,” the report claimed.


The pro-Syrian regime newspaper said that the airbase was located southeast of the town of Rimelan, which is one of the YPG’s main strongholds and “largest arms and ammunition depots.”


According to the report, the airfield was used by Hasakeh’s Directorate of Agriculture for crop dusting and has been out of service since 2010.

“This airport will help enable Washington to add an additional safe place to land its forces, commando units for example, and bring in military support to its allies who are working to finalize control over southern Hasakeh countryside.”


The report comes a little over a week after the local Kurd Street outlet said that the US and Kurdish forces were working together to construct a 10 hectare military airbase south of the town of Rimelan in the village of Rimelan al-Basha.


“American experts are directly supervising the airbase with a Kurdish workforce,” the report claimed, saying that US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had been flown from the facility to test it.


The report also said that two helicopter had flown over the town of Rimelan on November 24 and landed eight US military specialists at the airport.  


Interestingly, the Kurdish YPG issued a statement saying that “two unknown helicopters” had flown over Rimelan on the same day.


The following day, ARA News said that residents in the nearby village of Cil Axa had heard helicopters overhead, although they claimed they were Turkish.


Washington’s support for SDF offensive


On October 30, US President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of a contingent of “fewer than 50” US Special Forces personnel to assist the newly formed SDF, which is spearheaded by the 30,000 strong Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).


On Monday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that Washington was prepared to expand its military support for forces fighting ISIS in northern Syria.


“I have every reason to believe the president will allow us to do more and authorize us to do more when we have more opportunities,” he told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.


The SDF—which is manned not only by Kurds but also local Arab and Assyrian militias in northeastern Syria—launched an offensive against ISIS the same day as Obama’s announcement with the goal of clearing the extremist group from areas along the Syrian-Iraqi border.


In the past month of fighting, the coalition has seized well over 1,000 square kilometers of ISIS territory and marched into over 200 small villages in the eastern Hasakeh province.


On November 13, the SDF announced that it had swept into Al-Hawl, a town that lies on an ISIS supply route leading into Iraq’s Sinjar.


“This is the biggest strategic victory, and it was achieved in complete coordination with the [US-led] international coalition,” an SDF spokesperson told AFP.


Washington has backed the SDF’s recent offensives with heavy airstrikes, while Pentagon officials have publicly touted the coalition’s advances. On October 12, the US confirmed that it had airlifted 45 tons of military supplies to the SDF.


The SDF has now set its sights on seizing the Hasakeh town of Al-Shaddadi, which is one of ISIS’s last strongholds in the northeastern Syrian province.

US Blackhawk helicopters in operation. (AFP/Raed Qutena)

American technicians have worked for more than one and a half months to expand and prepare the airport with a runway specialized for warplanes.

  • dutchnational

    It is a sound strategy. In "payment" the US will have committed to supplying heavy arms, ammo, intelligence and support for taking on Jarablus. The US will also have committed not to leave the YPG in a ditch once Turkey gets furious again.

    December 4, 2015