Al-Tanf (US base)
Al-Tanf (Arabic: التَنْف) sometimes referred to as "At Tanf", is a military base of the US-led international coalition with a declared purpose of countering the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It is located 24 km to the west from the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq in Homs Governorate. The military outpost was established by the United States Armed Forces in early 2016 to train anti–ISIL fighters of the New Syrian Army, which changed its name to the Revolutionary Commando Army in December 2016. The US refers to the group as part of the "Vetted Syrian Opposition". According to the US, these fighters are only permitted launch offensives against ISIL and not the Syrian Armed Forces by the US, though clashes did occur.
In May 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants captured the border checkpoint at al-Tanf, thus obtaining control over the full length of the Iraq–Syria border. The US-backed New Syrian Army captured the al-Tanf post on the Syrian side of the border in early March 2016, and in early August, the al-Waleed checkpoint on the Iraqi side of the border was recaptured by pro-government Iraqi tribal militias backed by US-led forces. In August 2016, the British government-controled media outlet BBC published photographs taken in June that year, which it said showed British special forces soldiers apparently guarding the perimeter of the New Syrian Army's base, at al-Tanf in Syria's Homs Governorate.
In March 2017, fighters of the US-backed Revolutionary Commando Army re-opened the border point, resuming cross-border civilian traffic; a group referred to as the Army of Iraqi Tribes was said to control the Iraqi side of the crossing. In April 2017, the US special forces outpost at al-Tanf was reported to be engaged in combat. On 18 May 2017, US fighter jets struck a convoy of pro-Syrian government forces advancing towards the Tanf base. Shortly thereafter, Syrian government forces were reported to continue their advance in a direction that suggested their intent might be to outflank and isolate the US and Revolutionary Commando Army base at al-Tanf; the government forces appeared to use advanced Russia-made weapons and were supported by Russian helicopters, a report acknowledged on May 26 by the Russian Defence Ministry′s media outlet.
In September 2017, Russian government-owned media outlet RIA Novosti reported, with a reference to unnamed military and diplomatic sources, that the US had voiced readiness to leave al-Tanf but did not say when.
On 8 February 2018, following "an unprovoked attack" by the pro-Syrian government forces in eastern Syria, the SDF and US-led Coalition delivered massive multiple casualties among Russian PMCs of the Wagner Group, the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova said: "The unlawful US armed presence in Syria presents a serious challenge to the peace process and to the country's territorial integrity and unity. A 55-kilometer zone unilaterally created by Americans around their military base near al-Tanf is being used by the scattered units of ISIS militants" for evading pursuit by government forces and re-grouping. In mid-February 2018, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, in an exclusive interview with Euronews, said that US military presence in Syria generally and in the area of al-Tanf specifically "was illegal and unacceptable."
In August 2018, State Department representative William V. Roebuck traveled to the cities of Manbij and Kobani, both situated in Aleppo Governorate, as well as the town of Shaddadah in Hasakah Governorate. He was later due to visit Dayr al-Zawr province which is held by US-backed Kurdish forces. "We are prepared to stay here, as the president Donald Trump has made clear," he said after meeting with Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
On September 7, 2018 United States Central Command announced an Operation Inherent Resolve live fire exercise around the Al Tanf garrison. The announcement described it as a "defeat-ISIS exercise". The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria commented that "during the existence of the base, we don't know of a single US operation against IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS] in the area."
The 55 KM area
By late 2017 Arab media started calling the area around the Tanf base as "The 55 KM area", it's composed of a half-circle area with a radius of 55 km and the Tanf Base as its center. The area hosts five rebel factions including Lions of the East Army, Forces of Martyr Ahmad al-Abdo, Army of Free Tribes and Revolutionary Commando Army and Al-Qaratayn Martyrs Brigade.
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