Beirut: Syrian regime troops have sent reinforcements to the eastern province of Deir Al Zour, close to an enclave controlled by the Daesh group and along the front with US-backed Kurdish-led fighters, a war monitor and pro-regime pages on social media said on Saturday.
The reinforcements arrived after US President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he was pulling all 2,000 US troops out of Syria. Trump has now declared victory over Daesh, contradicting assessments by his own experts, with many lawmakers calling his decision rash and dangerous.
A senior Kurdish politician on Friday called on France to play a larger role in Syria following the US withdrawal.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the regime sent thousands of its elite forces to Deir Al Zour that borders Iraq, where Daesh holds the last area under its control in Syria.
The Observatory said the troops and pro-regime fighters were deployed on the west banks of the Euphrates River close to the Daesh-held enclave, mostly in the towns of Mayadeen and Boukamal. It added that troops brought to the area include members of the Tiger Force, an elite unit that defeated rebels and Daesh gunmen on several fronts over the past two years.
A pro-regime Facebook page posted a photo of Tiger Force commander Brigadier General Suhail and also reported that troops under his command have arrived in Deir Al Zour. It also posted photos of military vehicles said to be arriving in the area.
US-backed Syrian fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been trying to capture the area from Daesh since September 10. The battles have left hundreds of Daesh and SDF fighters dead.
On Friday, senior Kurdish politician Ilham Ahmed warned in Paris that SDF fighters may have to withdraw from the front lines in the fight against Daesh to deploy along the borders with Turkey after Ankara said it plans to carry an attack.
The Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said the troops were deployed for a possible attack on Daesh or to assume control of areas that could be evacuated by SDF fighters.
In Washington, Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global coalition fighting Daesh, has resigned in protest to Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, joining Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in an administration exodus of experienced national security officials.
Only 11 days ago, McGurk had said it would be “reckless” to consider Daesh defeated and therefore would be unwise to bring American forces home. He decided to speed up his plan to leave in mid-February.
Earlier Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the US military presence in Syria has damaged the region in the regime’s first comments on Trump’s plan to pull US troops from the war-torn country.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Bahram Ghasemi, ministry spokesman, as saying the presence of US troops during Syria’s civil war has damaged peace and security in the region.
“Basically, the deployment and presence of US forces in the region was wrong, illogical and a tension-maker,” said Ghasemi.
Iran has been a key supporter of the Syrian regime and along with Russia helped turn the balance of power in favour of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s forces.