Syria, Of Course


I was going to post something about this Saturday night or Sunday morning but it suddenly became a bit more relevant, now that the US has attacked Syria. You probably should know that the US invaded Syria back in November of last year.

Since the US and Turkey have been having some issues (e.g.: the Kurds, Manbij, etc) the US has been having some trouble using Turkey’s Incirlik air base. So, they just went and built their own in Syria. I know how concerned the US is with respecting other nations’ sovereignty [stderr] so that’s probably why hardly anyone thought to mention it to the public.

This didn’t get much attention: [April 3, 2017 – Stars and Stripes]

WASHINGTON – The Air Force has expanded an air base in northern Syria to assist in the fight to retake the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, U.S. Central Command said.

The base is near Kobani, which is about 90 miles north of Raqqa, the last urban stronghold for ISIS in Syria. It gives the United States an additional location to launch aircraft to support U.S. and other anti-ISIS forces in the campaign to recapture the city, said Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for Central Command.

I did a bit of noodling around in Google maps to see if I could get a screenshot of the airport, so I could save it for later comparison, but I wasn’t able to find it. Kobani is right on the border and there appears to be a big border checkpoint and a wall. Also, a rather interesting thing:

It looks like it might have been a surface to air missile battery at one point, and those two big craters look like they appeared kind of suddenly. Anyone hazard a guess what we’re looking at there?

The airmen entered Syria in November on a C-130 that landed on an airstrip of crushed rock, said Senior Master Sgt. Chris Wright, who led the 621st group’s security forces on that mission.

The Air Force’s contingency response group is tasked with landing on austere airfields so it can prepare them to receive aircraft and forces. Much of the time, the group is setting up airfields to respond to a humanitarian crisis, but has deployed three times during Operation Inherent Resolve.

In 2016, the group established the Kobani airfield in Syria and also set up an airfield at Qayarrah West in northern Iraq to support the fight against ISIS in Mosul. In 2015, it established an airstrip at al-Taqaddum to support Iraq’s battle for Ramadi.

Don’t mind us! We just moved in so we could bomb you more easily! November last year, did you say? That would have been when Obama was president?

The US way of making war is very very logistics-heavy, which always results in a piling-on of more logistics and more logistics. When you build an air base in a country you’re bombing but not at war with, you need security – and that means troops, lodging, weapons, fighting positions, light armor, perimeter defenses, mess halls, bunkers, ammo storage, trucks, fuel – and then you need more troops in order to protect the protectors. Just the US military’s logistical train for a single air base is probably bigger (and more costly) than some nations’ entire military.

The article concludes with one of the weirdest sentences I have read in a while. Puzzle over this:

The Pentagon is assessing whether the troop limit in Syria should remain, since there are numerous categories of deployments that are not included in it, such as some special forces. If the limit is lifted, the Pentagon could provide a more accurate account of how many U.S. forces are in the country.

WTFPentagon?

Here’s what I think is going on: the air base is in a Kurdish-controlled region of Northern Syria, right on the Turkish border. There is discussion in the Kurdish press regarding the building of an American air base in Kurdish-controlled Syria, starting back in 2015. [kurdistan24]  It’s likely that everyone in the area is pissed off except the Kurds, who are setting themselves up as a nation up there, and are probably trading US recognition of their statehood for the US helping keep the Turks off their backs.

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“Saturday Night or Sunday morning” – I feared that this weekend I’d be writing about the strike on North Korea that I expected was going to happen friday night.

Let’s go back and have a look there next year and see if there’s a great big sprawling air force base with a Starbucks and a Pizza Hut. Here are the coordinates of that weird dirt mound.

Stratfor appears to place the air base near Rmelian, though there is no sign of anything in that area, either. If any of you are bored and like looking around satellite maps, have at it. Rmelian is in an interesting location: it’s about 5 miles from Iraq and 10 miles from Turkey, but it’s inside Syria. This appears to be what stratfor is talking about, which … does not look like a military airport at all.

Sofrep [sof] has a picture of something that looks like an air base, but I see nothing resembling it on the satellite imagery.

Comments

  1. samihawkins says

    The Pentagon is assessing whether the troop limit in Syria should remain, since there are numerous categories of deployments that are not included in it, such as some special forces. If the limit is lifted, the Pentagon could provide a more accurate account of how many U.S. forces are in the country.

    I’m reminded of the novel of Jurassic Park where they had that fancy system for keeping track of the dinosaurs, but it only counted up to a certain pre-set limit of how many dinosaurs were supposed to be there. Then somebody thought to set that arbitrary limit higher, run the dino-counter again, and surprise surprise, their turned out to be more dinosaurs.

  2. John Morales says

    Anyone hazard a guess what we’re looking at there?

    An occult runic sigil?

  3. komarov says

    In that last quote, is the Pentagon saying they can’t count their own troops? Is this some sort of administrative bluff? ‘We know we have many more people down there than we’re allowed [by our own rules, I’m guessing*], but as long as we don’t actually look too closely we don’t really know for sure, so it’s fine.’

    *Maybe some sort of maximum boot number that must be exceeded before you officially have boots on the ground?

  4. says

    The troop limit is for troops only, support persons are additional. When there is no troop limit, you can count just people. Typical government hair splitting. There are likely more support people than actual troops.

  5. says

    Of course the Pentagon can’t count its own troops.

    I was once trying to do a VOIP partnership with a large German company. The whole project went off when they decided to figure out how many VoIP projects they had going on, find synergies and redundancies, etc

    Last I heard from them (15 years ago) they had found ‘4… So far’

    The Pentagon is way more complicated and less competent.

  6. Dunc says

    The satellite imagery on Google maps isn’t necessarily up to date, particularly when it comes to new US airbases in other people’s countries. I’d bet folding money that there’s a routine liason between Google and the US military to make sure that nothing’s showing up on the maps that the military want to keep off them.

  7. Siobhan says

    And I’m sure the next 200 noncombatants to die in a USA-Coalition airstrike will appreciate being “saved” and granted “freedom.”

  8. says

    Dunc@#5:
    The satellite imagery on Google maps isn’t necessarily up to date, particularly when it comes to new US airbases in other people’s countries. I’d bet folding money that there’s a routine liason between Google and the US military to make sure that nothing’s showing up on the maps that the military want to keep off them.

    If you go to the area some identify as being the location of the airfield (in my references above) you’ll notice, if you zoom out the satellite imagery, that there are areas of predominantly green and brown, and the satellite data in that region clearly comes from different times of the year. I admit I was wondering if I should put my tinfoil hat on and wonder if that’s because the data is from different years, not different seasons.

    It’s interesting because when you zoom in and out you get what almost look like interpolation effects. I don’t know if that’s a result of Google’s ajaxy stuff, or if it’s actually interpolating things. Obviously you have different resolution “tiles” that are being popped up… But what if it’s not just resolution in space, but resolution in time?

    Go to https://goo.gl/maps/q1iwxQNsDFB2 and zoom out to the 2 mile scale, and you’ll clearly see that there is a 10 mile square area composed of maps shot at different seasons.

  9. says

    Shiv@#6:
    And I’m sure the next 200 noncombatants to die in a USA-Coalition airstrike will appreciate being “saved” and granted “freedom.”

    It’s for their own sovereignty!

  10. says

    komarov@#3:
    ‘We know we have many more people down there than we’re allowed [by our own rules, I’m guessing*], but as long as we don’t actually look too closely we don’t really know for sure, so it’s fine.’

    I think that’s it. They’re saying “It’s classified. So we can lie about it. But if you declassify it you’ll have to deal with the fact that we invaded Syria in November 2016”

  11. kenal98 says

    Marcus@#8:

    Shiv@#6:
    And I’m sure the next 200 noncombatants to die in a USA-Coalition airstrike will appreciate being “saved” and granted “freedom.”
    It’s for their own sovereignty!

    But you see, they will have been happy to die in US/Coalition airstrike because as people like Sam Harris keep pointing out, when the US kills civilians, (no matter how many or how frequently or in what way) it is always a mistake, always unintended. Because you know, the people who gave the world the UDHR could never ever purposefully targeted or recklessly cause the deaths of noncombatants. Those evil Muslims on the other hand…something something about Qu’ran!!!

  12. says

    “It looks like it might have been a surface to air missile battery at one point, and those two big craters look like they appeared kind of suddenly. Anyone hazard a guess what we’re looking at there?”

    -Tall Shair, an unexcavated Tell turned into a makeshift fortification by Kurds. ISIS captured it in early October 2014. The two craters did appear kind of suddenly, and are probably a result of U.S. airstrikes on IS positions.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29611673

  13. jrkrideau says

    # 10 kenal98
    Sam Harris keep pointing out,when the US kills civilians, (no matter how many or how frequently or in what way) it is always a mistake, always unintended.

    And with the exception of Médecins Sans Frontiéres hospitals and Al Jazerra offices he seem correct. At least, I don’t imagine the US intends to wipe out wedding parties or bomb allies. I’m sure the Chinese Embassy bombing was a perfectly natural mistake.

  14. Dunc says

    The US bombing wedding parties etc is a “mistake” in exactly the same way that crashing your car is a “mistake” if you get liquored up and then decide to try and see just how fast you can go the wrong way on a motorway – sure, it’s not actually the intended outcome, but its so obviously predictable as to be practically inevitable.

  15. says

    Enopoletus Harding@#11:
    Tall Shair, an unexcavated Tell turned into a makeshift fortification by Kurds. ISIS captured it in early October 2014. The two craters did appear kind of suddenly, and are probably a result of U.S. airstrikes on IS positions.

    Your research skills are impressive!!

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