Despite the fact that President Trump recently considered withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria, the United States— along with its allies the United Kingdom and France— are doubling down and expanding their military presence in Northeastern Syria by establishing new military bases near the town of Manbij. Reports of the bases first broke last month, but were recently confirmed by Reuters. The bases are believed to be part of a wider effort by the U.S./U.K./France coalition to aid its military proxy force in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its “resistance” to the Turkish government.
Turkey has long maintained that the SDF, which is largely composed of members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), are terrorists. The U.S. announcement earlier this year that they would be using the SDF to build a “border force” subsequently led Turkey to invade parts of Northern Syria previously controlled by the SDF with help from its own proxy force in Syria, the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
After Turkey took control of Afrin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was considering removing YPG/SDF forces from Manbij as well, prompting the coalition forces to consolidate their positions. With the coalition now beefing up its military presence to prevent Turkey from encroaching further, Syria is set to become a new sore point in Turkey’s relationship with NATO and the West.
According to reports, the military bases are located throughout the Manbij region, with the U.S. having at least two bases while the French are constructing one. The U.K. does not have its own base, but its soldiers are known to be present in the area and to work with U.S. and French troops stationed in Manbij.