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US denies taking over Syrian airfield

US Army Staff Sgt. Vince Foster from Bravo Company, 12th Infantry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, provides security during a short halt in Buhriz, Iraq, on Feb. 17, 2014.

The United States denies its special operations troops have taken over an airfield in northeastern Syria, near the country’s border with Iraq and Turkey.

A spokesman of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) said Friday that the military "denied that US forces have taken control of any airfield in Syria".

However, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told Al Jazeera earlier this week that the US special operations forces had taken over the airfield near the city of Rmeilan in Syria’s Hasakah province to support Kurdish fighters against the Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri group.

The Rmeilan airport was previously controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and was reportedly to become the first US-operated airbase in Syria.

"Under a deal with the YPG, the US was given control of the airport. The purpose of this deal is to back up the SDF, by providing weapons and an airbase for US warplanes," said Taj Kordsh.

Also, the website of Texas-based security analyst Stratfor said Friday that satellite "imagery supports claims of US military activity in Syria."

American helicopters have been operating at the base over the past couple of weeks as local workers were busy expanding the runway, according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In December, 50 US Special Operation Forces were deployed to the Syrian cities of Kobani and Hasakah to “train and assist” Kurdish fighters in combating Daesh.

The base would have allowed US troops to deliver more weapons and ammunition to the region and operate more aircraft.

The airport is specially important as it is located in the vicinity of several important oil fields. It is also close to a key supply line that connects ISIL’s stronghold city of Raqqah to Mosul in Iraq, the second strategic city controlled by the extremist group.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said that the US plans to "destroy the ISIL cancer's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria by collapsing its two power centers in Raqqah and Mosul."

Since August 2014, Washington and its allies have been conducting airstrikes against what they call Daesh positions in Iraq and later on in Syria.

Latest data released by the US military shows that there have been 9,627 US-led coalition air strikes as of January 13, with 6,393 in Iraq and 3,234 in Syria.


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