The leading US commander for the Middle East
region has secretly visited northern Syria
, according to American military
General Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), spent about 11 hours in northern Syria on Saturday, a CENTCOM spokesman said.
General Votel met with US military advisers, anti-government militants and the leaders of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the spokesman added, but declined to provide further details.
The US says its special operations forces are helping train “moderate” militants in Syria to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad and Daesh (ISIL) terrorists, many of whom were trained by the CIA back in 2012 to destabilize the Assad government.
Now Daesh controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, and has recently started its terrorist activities in some other neighboring countries as well.
General Votel said after the visit that training local forces to fight Daesh was the right approach.
“I left with increased confidence in their capabilities and our ability to support them. I think that model is working and working well,” he said.
Since March 2011, the United States
and its regional allies, in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, have been conducting a proxy war against Syria.
The conflict has left more than 470,000 Syrians dead and half of the country’s population of about 23 million displaced within or beyond the Arab country’s borders.
In September 2014, the US and some of its allies started conducting airstrikes inside Syria against Daesh terrorists, many of whom were initially trained by the CIA to fight against the Syrian government. However, observers say the attacks did little damage to the terrorists; rather, they targeted the country’s infrastructure.
Washington has also deployed dozens of special forces to eastern Syria in what it claims is an effort to shore up local militant groups against Daesh.
In September of last year, Russia launched its own air offensive against the terrorists who were still wreaking havoc in Syria. The Russian campaign, analysts say, has broken the backbone of ISIL and other militants, and has provided the Assad government an opportunity to defeat the foreign-sponsored terrorist onslaught