An RT crew has gained access to the strategic Tabqa dam, partially recaptured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces with the help of US troops who were deployed to Syria to ‘train, advise and assist’ but who were spotted just miles away from Raqqa frontline.
An RT crew caught sight of US Marines, who were ostensibly deployed to Syria only to train, advise and assist the Syrian Democratic Forces, at the northern entrance to the Tabqa dam in the province of Raqqa, mere miles away from where US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces were engaged in fighting with Daesh.
The journalists were allowed access to the northern part of the hydroelectric dam, the largest in the country. RT’s Lizzie Phelan recorded a short clip of US service personnel at the dam before the SDF asked her to stop filming.
Phelan also said that Kurdish fighters admitted that US Marines take part in combat although they were not authorized to comment on the issue. One of them said that “it’s the Americans firing” when they heard the sounds of shelling.
“The Americans are on the other side and mortars were fired at them, then the Americans came to check the position of the mortar launchers,” the fighter said.
The Obama administration pledged to refrain from sending US ground troops to Iraq or Syria to tackle Daesh, but made a U-turn on its decision once it became apparent that the US-led coalition was struggling to degrade, let alone defeat the internationally-condemned group.
There are approximately 1,000 US special operations forces, Marines and Army Rangers in Syria at the moment. Their mission has been officially limited to providing training, advising and assistance. High-ranking US officials have repeatedly said that US troops would not take part in combat in Syria, but rather help the SDF encircle and liberate Raqqa, Daesh’s largest urban stronghold.
On Wednesday, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command, reiterated that the Pentagon has “not taken our eye off what our principle mission is, which is to advise and assist and enable our partners… Help our partners fight, but not fight for them.”
US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters recaptured the Tabqa airbase on Sunday. The Syrian Democratic Forces are currently focused on pushing Daesh out of the city of Tabqa and taking control of the nearby dam, located some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Raqqa. The internationally-condemned terrorist group was reported to control the main span of the dam and its gates, but on Wednesday the fighting was said to have spread to the dam itself.
Once this operation is over, the SDF would be able to proceed to the capital of Daesh’s caliphate. Earlier this week, Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Sputnik Turkey that the military assault on the embattled city is expected to be launched in April.