WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States will retain its military bases and presence in Syria and continue to militarily support Kurdish forces there despite saying it will end its backing for rebel groups, former CIA and US Army intelligence officer Philip Giraldi told Sputnik.
"The US presence in Syria is not going away," Giraldi said on Tuesday. "The Turks claim that there are now 13 US bases in the country, some of which appear to be permanent."
However, Giraldi cautioned that the US government was determined to maintain a significant military presence in Syria to ensure it had influence on the negotiations that would end the six-year-long civil war, which has cost an estimated 600,000 lives.
"Washington will stay so it will have a presence at any negotiations that take place to end the civil war," he said.
The United States would wind down or phase out its support for some rebel groups that had proven militarily useless and that had failed to win any public popular support, Giraldi acknowledged.
However, the move had primarily been taken in response to angry pressure from Turkey, a key US ally in NATO, which has a massive Kurdish minority of between 13 million to 15 million people, or 15 to 20 percent of the total population, Giraldi pointed out.
"They [United States] are partly serious, but it is largely a response to Turkish pressure to stop arming the Kurdish militias that make up the bulk of the American supported forces in Syria," he said.
Washington was determined not to abandon the Kurds, who enjoy strong support in Congress and in the US media, Giraldi observed.
"They will seek to find other ways to continue to arm and fund the Kurds without making the Turks crazy," he said.
The Kurds have felt increasingly isolated since Iraq’s central government launched a military drive against Iraqi Kurdistan across the border from Syria ha after its leader Masoud Barzani held a referendum that in which 90 percent of those voting called for full independence from Baghdad.
Yunus further specified that Washington has sent hundreds of trucks loaded with weaponry from Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria on the border with Turkey, to Deir ez-Zor, where the SDF is launching a military operation against Daesh.