Syrian rebels say U.S. troops remain in key garrison near Iraq

AMMAN (Reuters) – U.S. 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.
A man gestures at U.S military vehicles driving in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border. April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

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.

“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 told Reuters 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 (35 mile)-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 Islamic State 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

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