first at-tanf and now az-zakf, this is getting hairier & hairier

Photos show Pindo joint patrols with ‘rebels’ in southern Syria
Caleb Weiss, Long War Journal, Jun 14 2017

Photos released by a news outlet affiliated to a FSA-branded (sic! – RB) group show that Pindo SOF have been conducting joint patrols in southern Syria near the at-Tanf crossing. The position of these troops has been the catalyst for Pindo airstrikes against Iranian-backed groups pro-government forces in the area in recent weeks. Hammurabi’s Justice News, affiliated with Maghawir at-Thawra (MaT), has released several photos and videos in recent weeks showing Pindo SOF conducting joint patrols with them. In addition, several photos show fighters from MaT and Pindo grunts guarding the at-Tanf border crossing with Iraq. Grunts from vassal countries are likely featured in some photos, as British and Norwegian SOF are also in the area. According to the commander of MaT, around 150 Pindo SOF are stationed with the group near at-Tanf. The commander said that five other countries have grunts stationed with MaT, including two Arab states. MaT is the current incarnation of the New Syrian Army, formed with Pindo support in 2015 (from something called the Allahu Akbar Brigade – RB).

Pindostan expands presence in Syrian desert, rebels say
Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters, Jul 14 2017


AMMAN – Pindo SOF based in Syria’s south-eastern desert have expanded their footprint, rebels there say, increasing the risk of direct ground confrontation with pro-govt forces. Pindo SOF have been based since last year at at-Tanf. On several occasions in recent weeks, Pindo warplanes have struck pro-govt forces to prevent them advancing, in what the Pentagon has described as self-defense. Abu al-Atheer of the Pindo-backed Maghawir at-Thawra rebels, told Reuters that the Pindo SOF had spread from their initial location at at-Tanf to set up a second base at az-Zakf, around 60 or 70 km to the north-east. Regional intelligence sources told Reuters the Pindos had moved a new long-range rocket launcher system from Jordan to Tanf in the last few days. They said HIMARS, which can fire missiles as far as 300km, had been deployed for the first time in southern Syria. It had been previously based in Turkey and Jordan. Col R Dillon, spox for CENTCOM, denied troops had set up a new base, but he said:

Sometimes coalition forces conduct patrols and training with rebels at locations outside at-Tanf, that may be maintained for days or weeks. We have that garrison in at-Tanf, that is a temporary base and location for us to train our partner forces to fight to defeat Daesh, but that is the only base in southern Syria or location where we have coalition forces.

Abu al-Atheer said the Pindo SOF were now patrolling distances of up to 100 km from at-Tanf. He said more of them were arriving at both the original base and the new one, and more weapons had been delivered to rebels. He told Reuters:

The (new) base was being studied for months but now it’s an official base. It has been built and expanded and insha’Allah, it will be like the at-Tanf base in the next few days.

Video clips purportedly of the az-Zakf site, sent to Reuters by another rebel in the group, showed a convoy of military vehicles traveling on a paved road lined by long walls, a communications mast and a hut. Another showed three men in uniform next to two small military vehicles, firing a mortar in otherwise empty desert. Muzahem Sallum, a rebel official close to Maghawir al-Thawra, said the az-Zakf location would back up at-Tanf and was expected to be a “first line of defense” against any attack by pro-govt forces. At-Tanf is located near the border crossing on the main Baghdad-Damascus highway, and the rebels took it from Islamic State last year, partly to stop Iran from using it in future to send arms to the Syrian government rocket fuel to Hezbollah – RB. They also want to use it to take more territory along the border and to push toward Deir ez-Zor. Syria’s army has advanced swiftly from Palmyra with troops and dozens of tanks, determined to win back control of the desert and relieve Deir ez-Zor. It also hopes to join up with Iraqi govt forces advancing against Daesh across the border to secure a land route from Damascus to Baghdad. Recent pro-govt advances to the Iraqi border north-east of at-Tanf and az-Zakf mean that the rebels will have to fight the Syrian army in order to march on Deir ez-Zor. Mad Dog Mattis said on Tuesday that airstrikes against pro-govt forces near at-Tanf in recent weeks had been in self-defense, to prevent them from attacking its troops at the base. Rebel spokesman Abu al-Athir said:

The goal of the [pro-govt forces] is to cut our advance towards Deir ez-Zor. But we are moving towards a plan to take us to Deir ez-Zor even if they enter. The battle is not over and we will not allow the Iranian Shi’ites to occupy our land! Our response to those who stand against us will be cruel!

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