ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Following reports that Russian engineers and soldiers had moved to the international Kamishly airport in Qamishli to possibly transform it into a base, similar reports indicate that the Americans may be seeking to do the very same thing in the region.
In the nearby Hasakah Province the Americans have reportedly taken control of the former Syrian military Rmeilan airfield. They are apparently seeking to use it as a hub to give closer support to Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) fighters in Syria engaged against the Islamic State (ISIS).
Like Kamishly airport it is very close to Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey.
“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 [Syrian Democratic Forces], by providing weapons and an airbase for US warplanes,” an activist for the SDF told the Al Jazeera network on Tuesday.
“This airport was previously controlled by the YPG for over two years now. This strategic airport is close to several oil bases – one of the biggest in this area. Rmeilan airport was previously used for agricultural purposes by the Syrian government,” he went on to explain.
While Rmeilan sits in territory controlled by the Kurds Qamishli airport remains in the few enclaves controlled by the regime in that part of Syria.
Russia and US setting up shop in that part of Syria is a highly notable development in the Syrian conflict.
To this date the US and Russians have been operating in mostly separate parts of the country. US air power has been focused solely on bombing ISIS in the east and northeast while Russian air power has been bombing various forces fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad across Syria. The earlier report:
Russian engineers and soldiers have been spotted at the Qamishli airport in northern Syria, where a monitoring group says they are preparing facilities to possibly receive Russian cargo and fighter jets.
Qamishli is a Kurdish city in Syria that is smack on the border with Turkey.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claims the Russian personnel are upgrading facilities at Qamishli airport in case Moscow needs another air base in Syria, which would boost Russia´s operational capability in Syria.
It remains unclear whether the airport is to be used as an auxiliary base, or a full-fledged facility, such as the Latakia air base that the Russians have been using since the start of their deployment four months ago.
According to the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency, the Russian soldiers will be deployed in areas in the northeast where the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad retains control.
Most of that area is now controlled by the Syrian Kurds. However, the regime has some small pockets of territory in control, such as a portion of the city of Hasakah.
While they have clashed, the Syrian regime and the Syrian Kurds have not waged war against each other.