AMPS is a dismounted 120mm mortar system. The system has a recoil design, which reduces shock and improves accuracy, according to the Army. It also has an electric drive system, providing a 360-degree firing range, and allows for computerized laying of the cannon’s azimuth and elevation.
All of this makes the system “capable of providing an accurate solution when emplaced on a sloped terrain,” according to the Army. The build-up comes days after an American and a British operator were killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting a mission in an urban area of Manbij on March 29. During that same incident, five other coalition troops were wounded.
The coalition forces were conducting a raid to kill or capture a known member of the Islamic State.
The U.S. is building two military bases in the region of Manbij west of the Euphrates River, which is under the control of the Kurdish People’s Defense Unit (YPG), reports the Turkish news agency Anadolu.
On Wednesday April 4, there was a growing fortified position with a perimeter of large sand barriers and barbed wire, a new watch tower and a half-dozen armored vehicles.
Even as U.S. President Donald Trump spoke of pulling out of Syria “very soon,” an Associated Press team saw American forces setting up front-line positions west of the Euphrates River.
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State Brett McGurk noted the role both American military and diplomatic assets had played in staving off violence between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States. “It’s incredibly complex,” McGurk said, “But we have to work through this diplomatically with our NATO allies and reassure our partners on the ground in Manbij.”
Currently, the United States has roughly 2,000 soldiers in Syria, and along with regional allies, has taken back more than 90 percent of the territory formerly held by the militant group.
[more] US Army Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, was assigned to the headquarters of US Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
[more]Sergeant Matt Tonroe, from the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, died in an improvised explosive device blast on Thursday March 29 while embedded with US forces.
A US and a British service member in the US-led coalition battling ISIL were killed by an improvised explosive device in Manbij, Syria, US and British officials said on Friday, March 30.
They are the first coalition service members to be killed or wounded in an attack this year.
Army Col. Robert Manning III said, referring to advances into Syria by Turkish forces. The United States is not involved in the movement of forces of either side, he said, but U.S. officials are very concerned about the effect that fighting there has had on its defeat-ISIS efforts. The United States would like to see an end to the hostilities before ISIS has the opportunity to regroup in eastern Syria, Manning said. “We cannot allow ISIS to gain momentum at this critical point,” he stressed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin: “Pompeo is not informed on the issues, so it will cost us 1-2 weeks, but we will continue working on this.”
[March 17 State – we’re not done talking ]
QUESTION: — working group meetings between Turkish and U.S. officials, and yesterday, I believe, Turkish foreign minister stated that Turkey and U.S. agreed on Manbij, that the Syrian Kurdish fighters, YPG, are going to leave the city. Is that your understanding?
MS NAUERT: It is not our understanding. We have a lot of conversations that we’re having with the Turkish Government at this point. We had a day and a half or a day worth of meetings last week with Turkish Government officials. We’re still working to reach an agreement with Turkey at this point and we’re not done talking with them.
Heather Nauert, , Spokesperson, State Department Press Briefing, Washington, DC,March 15, 2018
[March 2 U.S.ashamed to abandon Kurds? ]
Vast territories to the east of the Euphrates have been captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) with US air support from Isis since 2015. 30 per cent of Syria is now held by the Kurds.
Probably, the US will stick with the Kurds because it would be ashamed, at least in the short term, to abandon them. Doing so too swiftly would also deter other potential US allies in the Middle East who might fear a similar fate.
[February 23 Manbij Syria:Pentagon has designated funding for the SDF separately]
“The reason for us to base soldiers in Manbij is to ensure that the town remains under the control of our partners,” said Rex Tillerson
The United States considers the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) a partner. Playing a large role in the SDF is the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist-affiliated group.
The Pentagon has designated funding for the SDF separately from money for the so-called Syrian “border force” in its 2019 budget.
[February 7 Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk in Manbij, “We’re here…my job is to fight.” ]
MANBIJ, SYRIA – “We’re here to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS is maintained in this area,” Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk said February 7 during a visit to U.S. forces in Manbij.
Funk told reporters in Manbij that the U.S. would continue to support the Syrian fighters despite tensions with Turkey and that a continued U.S. presence in Syria’s north is aimed at deescalating tensions.
“I don’t worry,” Funk said when asked about recent Turkish threats, “It’s not in my job description to worry, my job is to fight.”
On February 6, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Manbij and renewed a threat to expand Ankara’s military offensive in Syria to this town.
“Why are you staying there (in Manbij)? Leave,” Erdogan said, referring to American troops.
[January 24 Syrian airspace under Russian control west of Euphrates ]
The Turkish campaign only became possible when Russia agreed not to oppose it and, above all, allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. This is under Russian control west of the Euphrates. Is control east of Euphrates American…over Manbij?
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve precision strikes killed an estimated 145-150 ISIS terrorists near As Shafah, Syria which is north of Abu Kamal, Jan. 20.
The precision strikes were a culmination of extensive intelligence preparation to confirm an ISIS headquarters and command and control center in an exclusively ISIS-occupied location in the contested Middle Euphrates River Valley. The United States has around 2,000 special forces troops in Syria, officially as part of an international U.S.-led coalition, assisting the Kurds in battle against Islamic State. A U.S. official said the administration is unlikely to commit more troops or covert operators to Syria, even if Turkey makes a move from Afrin to Manbij.
[January 23 Manbij: entire U.S. strategy rests on the Kurds ]
Gonul Tol, director of the Middle East Institute think tank’s Turkey program, said persuading Erdogan not to move against Manbij could prove extremely difficult.
The Trump administration’s Syria strategy – crushing the remnants of Islamic State and reviving the U.N.-led Geneva talks on ending the Syrian civil war – almost entirely depends on preserving the 30,000-strong YPG as a fighting force.
“The entire U.S. strategy rests on the Kurds. Even if Turkey doesn’t attack Manbij, the fall of Afrin will weaken the Kurds, and that will weaken the U.S. influence with the Kurds, Tol said. “The only leverage the U.S. has (in Syria) is through the Kurds.
“If Manbij falls, Raqqa is going to be threatened and that is key for the U.S.,” Tol continued, referring to the Syrian city that Islamic State declared as its capital and from which it was driven out last year. “The U.S. will do everything to ease the tensions with Turkey. But I don’t know what they will come up (with). They have to be very creative.”
[ November 9 2017 SDF in Raqqah release 86 former ISIS fighters ]
On November 8, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that it released 86 former ISIS fighters who were captured or surrendered during the battle for Raqqa. The SDF said that the former ISIS fighters who were released went through a strict investigation and stressed that none of them committed crimes during their service with ISIS.
[October 12 400 militants left near Raqqa ]
KOBANI, Syria (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters in the Syrian city of Raqqa are expected to fight to the death, but some local militants have surrendered recently as U.S.-backed forces close in on their last strongholds, a U.S. coalition spokesman said on October 11.
Colonel Ryan Dillon said officials in the Raqqa Civil Council, which is to govern the city after IS has been driven out, were working to negotiate the safe passage of thousands of civilians being held hostage.
But the coalition would not support any negotiated withdrawal of fighters, he said.
“The coalition would not be party to a negotiated settlement. (But) we’re jumping ahead of anything that’s being discussed right now … as (the council) try to get civilians out,” he told Reuters by phone.
Up to 400 militants are believed to remain in a small part of Raqqa surrounded by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, he said.
“The foreign fighters (in IS), we fully expect them to fight till the end – there’s a hardcore of (foreign) fighters.
“But we have seen a rate of four to five ISIS fighters surrendering a week, including emirs – local leaders within Raqqa – over the past month,” Dillon said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
On Oct. 11, Coalition military forces: Near Ar Raqqah, 24 strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units, damaged nine fighting positions, destroyed 11 fighting positions, 12 vehicles, two communication nodes and one ISIS supply route
June 19 Warning after Bush F/A-18E shoots down Syrian SU-22 near Raqqah ]
Russia announces it will target any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria after the US military shot down a Syrian air force SU-22. The U.S.-led coalition conducts missions in areas west of the Euphrates River near Manbij and Al Bab, two towns retaken from ISIS by U.S.-backed rebel forces.
US Central Command said the SU-22 dropped bombs near the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are being supported by the US-led coalition as they advance on the terrorist stronghold of Raqqa. “In accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces, it was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” a statement said.
[March 17 1000 more U.S. to Syria
2014 Rangers training
The Pentagon has considered increasing the U.S. military presence in Syria by up to 1,000 troops as the international battle to oust the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, from their de facto capital of Raqqa heats up.
The U.S. has already deployed about 500 U.S. Special Operations forces, 250 Rangers and 200 Marines to Syria.
.[March 15 U.S. Rangers near Raqqa]
The U.S. is looking for options to ease the tensions with Turkey over the plan to use U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds in the fight to oust Islamic State fighters from Raqqa but has offered no details on what those options could be.
The U.S. is considering arming the Syrian Kurdish forces, which the Pentagon considers the most effective fighters against IS militants in northern and eastern Syria. But Turkey, a key NATO ally, considers the Syrian force, known as the YPG, a terrorist organization. Turkey wants to work with other Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.
Paentagon leaders sent a new plan to defeat IS to the White House late last month that included a variety of options for the ongoing fight in Iraq and Syria.
MARCH 6, a separate force of elite US army Rangers was deployed near a town north-west of Raqqa in heavily armoured vehicles, in an attempt to end clashes between SDF fighters and a Turkish-backed rebel force. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/former-trump-security-adviser-flynn-admits-turkey-lobbying
“Just days ago, fighting broke out between the Manbij Military Council (SDF), who had Green Berets embedded within their ranks, and Turkish-backed forces in the Manbij area. The movement of more US troops in the area will signify to our allies that they have our support, and show the Turkish forces and pro-Assad fighters that they’re messing with the wrong dudes.”
]February 16 Trump not insisting on Kurds in Raqqah Assault]
U. S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the Kurdish YPG, has caused tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which views the Kurdish militia as an extension of militants fighting on its own soil.
“If we want the Raqqa operation to be successful, then it should be carried out with Arab forces in the region and not the YPG,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters in Brussels.
“The new U.S. administration has a different approach to the issue. They are not insisting anymore that the operation should definitely be carried out with the YPG. They haven’t yet made up their minds,” he said in comments broadcast live.
The SDF alliance, which includes Arab and other groups in Syria’s north as well as the YPG, has taken territory along the Syria-Turkey border as they push back Islamic State.
With air strikes and special ground forces from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF is in the middle of a multi-phased operation to encircle Raqqa, Islamic State’s base of operations in Syria.
A key decision for the Trump administration will be whether to provide weapons to the YPG despite Turkish objections. The U.S. says weapons provided to the SDF are so far limited to its Arab elements.
“We are working with the U.S. on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij by the time the al-Bab operation is completed,” Isik said, referring to a town currently under SDF control.
Mahmud al-Isawi, a Syrian-based ISIL leader and facilitator, was struck and killed by a Coalition precision airstrike Dec. 31, 2016, in Raqqah, Syria. CJTF-OIR does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Coalition nations which have conducted strikes in Syria include Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
[July 3 2015 U.S. kills IS leader in airstrike in al-Hasakah area of Syria]
Tariq Bin al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-Awni al-Harzi, a senior Islamic State leader, in Syria was killed June 16 in Shaddadi, Syria. He was the subject of a $3 million reward offered by the U.S. State Department.
The military reported conducting two airstrikes in the al-Hasakah area of Syria, which includes the town of al-Shaddadi, on June 16. It said at the time that those strikes hit an Islamic State tactical unit, two antenna arrays and a vehicle, but made no mention of enemy casualties.
Al-Harzi’s death came one day after that of his brother, Ali Awni al-Harzi, a key suspect in the 2012 Benghazi U.S. Consulate attack and also a member of IS. He was killed June 15 in a U.S. drone strike in Mosul, Iraq.
June 11 2011 Syria: Rifaat Assad Redux?]
In 1983, Hafez’ younger brother Rifaat, who drew a significant amount of support from the military, attempted a coup against Hafez Assad
In 1992 he returned to Syria following the death of his mother. However, in 1998, as Bashar Assad was being groomed for the presidency, Rifaat was denied the title of vice-president and left the country one again.
For years he has been deemed a potential threat to Bashar’s inheritance of his father’s regime, but when Hafez Assad died in June 2000, Rifaat refrained from taking any major steps to prevent Bashar from assuming power.
Rifaat is considered close, by some observers, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah is married to a sister of Rifaat’s wife, and Rifaat has on occasions—even after his public estrangement from the rulers in Syria—been invited to Saudi Arabia, with pictures of him and the royal family displayed in the state-controlled press.
After the Iraq war, there were press reports that he had started talks with US government representatives on helping to form a coalition with other anti-Assad groups to provide an alternative Syrian leadership, on the model of the Iraqi National Congress. Rifaat has held a meeting with the former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Yossef Bodansky, the director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, has stated that Rifaat enjoys support from both America and Saudi Arabia; he has been featured in the Saudi press as visiting the royal family in 2007. The Bashar regime remains wary of his intentions and carefully monitors his activities.