US troops have not left the strategic Tanf garrison on the Iraq-Jordan border following President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, the leader of a Pentagon-backed rebel group there said on Saturday.
Colonel Muhanad al Talaa, leader of Maghawir al-Thawra whose several hundred fighters work alongside U.S. troops at the Tanf camp, said although they were notified of Washington’s decision, the situation on the ground remained as it was, Reuters reported.
“American troops plan to withdraw completely form Syria but I don’t have details and things are as they are up until this moment,” Talaa said from the base.
The garrison is located in a strategic area near Syria’s Tanf border crossing with Iraq at the crossroad of a main Baghdad-Damascus highway, Tehran’s main arms supply route by land to Syria and Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militia.
Russia and the Syrian government have repeatedly called on Washington to pull its troops from the Tanf base, where it has declared a 55 km-radius “deconfliction zone” which has become a safe haven for at least 50,000 civilians, mostly women and children, who live in the Rukban camp within it.
The garrison was first set up when ISIS fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq but since the militants were driven out, Tanf has assumed a role as part of a U.S. strategy to contain Iran’s military buildup in eastern Syria.
Tanf is the only position with a significant U.S. military presence in Syria outside the Kurdish-controlled north, where it has much larger air bases
Only several months ago, U.S. marines held major rare exercises in the base in what Western military officials said was a strong message to Russia and Iran that the Americans and the rebels it supports intend to stay.
A western diplomatic source and a regional intelligence source said the decision to leave Tanf will not necessarily affect the broader U.S. strategy against Iran, where regional power Israel will continue its aerial strikes.