Syrian refugees at Rukban camp fear the worst ahead of US troops withdrawal

 Al Arabiya English

Although the mission of military advisers from the United States was limited within an established 55-km de-confliction zone where their base is located on Syrian territory near the border with Jordan and Iraq, the consequences of their withdrawal seem “dire” as described by some residents of the Rukban camp in the same area.

“The presence of American advisors is a guarantee that the Syrian regime will not enter the region, and their withdrawal means that the regime will control it afterwards,” some residents of the camp told Al English.

Two other young men said that “the regime will force us to perform military service” imposed by the forces of Bashar al-Assad on most of the young people in various areas of Syria.

The area around the US base of al-Tanf has come to be known as the “55 km area” and is composed of a sem-circle region encircling 55 km of land with al-Tanf Base at 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.

The forced military conscription does not appear to be one of their only fears as further worries of those who fought in the Syrian opposition before returning to their civilian life seemed greater, fearing arbitrary arrest and then death under torture.

In this image made through a vehicle window, US Gen. Joseph Votel, the top US commander in the Middle East, center, arrives for an unannounced visit Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, at the al-Tanf military outpost in southern Syria. (AP)

Sources in the Syrian opposition armed in 55 km zone told Al Arabiya English that “the American withdrawal from this region, will put them in front of a major disaster”.

Col. Muhannad al-Talaa, a commander of The Revolutionary Commando Army, previously called the New Syrian Army, told Al Arabiya English that he had received a verbal message from Washington about its withdrawal from Syria.

“But so far no changes on the ground,” he said, adding that “implementation has not yet begun.”

While the fate of gunmen from the armed opposition who have receive military and logistical support from Washington remains unknown – as the US withdrawal is scheduled to take place within 60 to 100 days as announced by the White House last week – some expressed fear and worry for those living in Rukban camp, which has been home to more than 60,000 Syrian refugees since 2014 who live in difficult living conditions.

The Revolutionary Commando Army, which has opposed the Assad regime, has pledged to “protect the Rukban camp”.

“We are coordinating with Washington the fate of the region in order to reach the best possible options,” they said in a press statement.

The task of protecting the population at the Rukban camp is the most difficult, as their access to areas in northern Syria does not seem possible. Sources from the armed opposition told Al Arabiya English that “this solution will not satisfy Ankara, as a result of the large support received by the armed opposition from Washington in this region”.

Syrian refugees from the informal Rukban camp (AFP)

The primary task of US forces within the 55 km zone has been limited to “not allowing the Assad forces to enter”. Military sources from the armed opposition told Al Arabiya English that “the number of American experts do not exceed 200, but their presence contributes to protecting the region from the forces of the regime”.

In conjunction with the US announcement of withdrawing its troops from Syria, Russian military reinforcements of the Syrian regime and its militias have reached points stationed near the Area 55 zone on the Damascus-Baghdad International highway, about 80 km from the at-Tanf base.

The regime’s forces and militias aim to control the whole of the Syrian desert on the Jordanian border. The American withdrawal gives it a great opportunity to its ally Tehran by linking the places of its Shiite militias on the Syrian and Iraqi sides with one another after the land route that the US withdrawal would create from the region.

Categories: Asylum Seekers and Refugees

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