Hundreds of Iranian-backed militiamen, fighting alongside government troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, are amassing near a U.S.-training base located near the country’s border with Iraq, the Defense Department confirmed Tuesday.
Pro-Assad fighters supported by Tehran have begun conducting patrols near the southern Syrian town of At Tanf, which is home to a U.S. training camp for moderate Syrian militias battling the Islamic State, said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.
American commanders and their Russian counterparts, deployed to Syria in support of the Assad regime, have designated At Tanf and the surrounding areas as a deconfliction zone, which bars any interference by any outside forces of coalition operations within the area.
“We continue to see massing [of forces] and we are concerned about that,” Capt. Davis told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday. “These patrols are unacceptable and threaten coalition forces” operating within the deconfliction zones, he said, adding that American forces would defend themselves, should regime troops attempt to breach the zone.
American and coalition aircraft have dropped leaflets onto regime positions near At Tanf, in an effort to encourage those forces to cease their patrols and move away from the zone, Capt. Davis said.
His comments came amid reports that U.S. weapons and vehicles have been shipped to Syrian Kurds, as part of a plan