New US Air Facility in E. Syria, Fifth in Chain of Air Bases
US Air Force engineers are busy at work on the construction of another airbase in Syria, according to an exclusive report reaching DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources. The secret new facility is going up in the desert 25km west of the Al Tanf border post in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle.
It will be the sixth in the chain of American airfields available in Syria for US special ops forces. (See attached map.)
Two are located at Remeilan and Malikiyeh in the northeastern Kurdish-controlled Hasakah province. Malikiyeh stands opposite the Iraqi-Jordanian-Turkish border. The Tabqah base is located near Raqqa. And a new air force facility was recently finished on the Sarrin Plains in Aleppo’s northeastern countryside near Raqqa province, south of Kobani and 3km to the east of the Euphrates River.
It is the Sarrin base which is serving the US special ops forces which this week moved into the former ISIS citadel of Raqqa alongside Kurdish-led troops – just as the new base in the desert will support the US Al-Tanf garrison.
Our sources learn that after the Al Tanf air base is up and running, US strategists will pick a site for a sixth in eastern Syria to gain aerial command over the approaches to the Euphrates River Valley, and a link between two complexes of US special forces and outposts – one in the northeast and another in the southeast.
This final link in the chain would also give the US air force a perch for close surveillance and control over all 900 kilometers of the Syrian-Iraqi border – and the capacity to frustrate Iran’s drive for an open land bridge to carry its forces and Shiite proxies, including Iraqi militias, into Syria.
A high-ranking US officer posted to the Middle East commented this week that once Tehran sees US bomber-fighters and helicopters poised nearby for take off at short notice against unwanted border crossings, its generals will think twice before trying to push troops into Syria.
All this means that US military leaders have opted to deploy air force assets for securing the inflammable Syrian-Iraqi border, instead of large numbers of American boots on the ground.
Another notable feature of the air base going up near Al Tanf, our sources note, is its location 55km from the new air facility the Russians are establishing at Khirbat Ras Al-War in southeastern Syria.
US military strategists will be free to use it for either of two opposite functions, depending on events:
If the Trump-Putin deal for a ceasefire in the southwest works out (see separate article) and is successfully extended to other warfronts, US and Russian jets may even be able to coordinate their air strikes in Syria.
But if the bilateral deal runs into the sand, the Al Tanf air facility can be turned around for blocking a Russian military advance out of Syria into Iraq. Moscow openly seeks an air base in Iraq for a cross-border air corridor to Russian air facilities in Syria, so gaining an aerial version of Iran’s bid for a land bridge.
The new US air base will be in position to give the war on the Islamic State terrorists a huge boost.
Once Raqqa is finally secured, the US special forces fighting there will be free to spread out and engage ISIS in its relocated lairs in the Syrian Euphrates Valley towns of Abu Kamal and Mayadin.
Air cover provided from the Al-Tanf base will be critical to this campaign. Any Syrian units joining this front will be prevented from crossing the border into Iraq’s Anbar province.
Our sources also learn German air force use of the new base is under discussion after its removal is completed from the big Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to a facility near al-Azraq in Jordan, 100km east of Amman.
From Incirlik, German drones, helicopters, transports and reconnaissance aircraft supported US operations against ISIS. Several hundred German special ops troops are already posted at the US-led Al Tanf garrison. The arrival of their air force units nearby would substantially ramp up Berlin’s military involvement in Syria.