Photos show US joint patrols with rebels in southern Syria

US special forces and fighters from Maghaweir al Thowra at the Tanf border crossing in late May.

Photos released by a news outlet affiliated to a Free Syrian Army-branded group show that US special forces have been conducting joint patrols in southern Syria near the Al Tanf crossing. The position of these troops has been the catalyst for US airstrikes against Iranian-backed groups in the area in recent weeks.

Hammurabi’s Justice News, a news outlet affiliated with Maghaweir al Thowra (MaT), has released several photos and videos in recent weeks showing US special forces conducting joint patrols with the group. In addition, several photos show fighters from MaT and American troops guarding the Al Tanf border crossing with Iraq. Special forces from other allied countries are likely featured in some photos, as British and Norwegian special forces are also in the area.

According to the commander of MaT, around 150 US special forces are stationed with the group near Tanf. The commander also said that five other countries have troops stationed with MaT, including two Arab states. MaT is the current incarnation of the New Syrian Army, formed with US support in 2015.

After failing to respond to US warning shots and Russian dissuasion, a pro-regime convoy last month was struck by US airstrikes as it approached within 25 kilometers of a US “deconfliction zone” northwest of the Tanf base. Initially withdrawing following the US strike, the Iranian-directed militias have continued to hold positions near Tanf. A couple weeks later, another airstrike occurred in the same area on more Iranian-backed groups. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Iran tests the US in southeastern Syria.]

Last week, US warplanes shot down a pro-regime drone near Tanf. These strikes, as well as the heavy presence of Iranian-backed militias from Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, has forced the US to deploy long-range artillery to Tanf. According to CNN, the US military moved a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Jordan into Syrian territory. The deployment is likely meant to dissuade the Iranian-backed militias from targeting US troops.

Regime forces, alongside its Iranian-controlled allies, recently circled around the Tanf area to reach the Iraqi border. The maneuver allowed the regime to reach the Iraqi border without confronting US troops and several Free Syrian Army-branded groups in the area. However, these forces continue to pose a threat, as the US-led coalition recently stated: “The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near coalition and partner forces in southern Syria … continue to concern us, and the coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

Pro-regime forces are attempting to conquer territory, reach the besieged Deir Ezzor, check the expansion of US-backed forces in southern and eastern Syria and connect a land supply route to Iraq. These movements raise the risk of further clashes with the US. This risk will be further raised if the coalition, alongside local forces, move to dislodge the Islamic State near Abu Kamal further along the border area in Deir Ezzor.

Photos released by Hammurabi’s Justice and MaT showing US and coalition forces in southern Syria:


Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • Art Sadin says:

    The Iranians sure miss Obama. Finally they have to pay a price. Is Obama still working on sale of dual purpose aircraft made by Boeing for sale to Iran? Why not? He is a private citizen now. Pathetic 7 years beginning with his silence in democracy protestors challenging the fraudulent 2009 Iranian presidential election. Now it all makes sense.

  • Arjuna says:

    Wow! Those guys in the top photo look especially friendly and moderate, just like friendly dentists and lawyers, and maybe some nice accountants to count the bullets.
    JK lol those are jihadis or my name’s not Arjuna! Look at the cold eyes on that snake in the Adidas jumper. No wonder the Green Berets hate the Syria mission. They know we’re in bed with devils. Hope the HIMARS isn’t needed. If I was Assad, I would not want those fuzzy freaks taking one inch of my country.
    Was it the Bible somewhere that it said Ye shall be known by the company you keep…?

  • Abu Jamal says:

    Not so fast Captain America! Wait and see the end.

  • Max says:

    LOL You must watch a lot of Alex Jones.

  • Thomas says:

    Oh sure. Iran, Iran…Yemen, Somalia, AND now Qatar!!! all need interventions… Just to make happy our Saudi pals, you remember them, the Princes who finance the strike on Ney York that September morning…. The pilots who flew the planes. You know these guys are now moving heaven and earth to thwart the lawsuits Congress authorized for Victim families.

    The politicians get rich on their bribes (campaign contributions) while our Vets pay with blood, limbs & minds…. Protect America, not the Saudis and their Wahabbi radical pals…

  • I agree with Art Sadin

  • James says:

    At least one of the biggest fears of the tyrant butcher a$$ad, is that once ISIS has been mostly vanquished (at least in Syria), those forces that are now performing that noble task will turn against him, along with, if necessary, his protectors (namely puKKKin, and the mullah regime [based in Tehran]). And they will (most likely) turn against him.

    You see people, in the twisted mind of people like the tyrant butcher a$$ad, ISIS serves a purpose. He will even go so low as to make secret deals with ISIS. Just consider as in this case where he’s willing to insert his own forces to serve as unwitting ‘human shields’ to block our forces from advancing against ISIS-held territories. ISIS longs for the good old days in Syria, when they were sawing the heads off of Syrian soldiers on a regular basis. They’d much rather make sport of them, rather than lose against US.

    What is the difference between a tyrant and a terrorist? Answer: There is no difference. They’re both evil.

  • irebukeu says:

    Obama helped the democracy protesters in Syria instead. How is that working out? What are the democracy protesters doing in Iran now? I can see very clearly what they are doing in Syria. How much American money has been spent waging jihad in Iran vs waging jihad in Syria? The picture that disturbs me the most is the first one. American forces on the right and jihadists on the left. Are the Americans waging jihad too? or just the Sunni jihadists who for big money and huge cash, have raised the battle standard of their prophet and have put their faith in Allah?

  • irebukeu says:

    Amen to that.

  • Arjuna says:

    Well said, sir. Except today we’re downing Syrian jets to save the Snakes!
    Between a crafty enemy and our own “own goals” we will never, ever win.
    Radical Islam starts and ends in the Snake Kingdom.
    Oppose it, fight it, decry it, never ally with it.

  • Arjuna says:

    “By far the most consequential single Saudi arms purchase was not from the Balkans, however, but from the United States. It was the December 2013 U.S. sale of 15,000 TOW anti-tank missiles to the Saudis at a cost of about $1 billion—the result of Obama’s decision earlier that year to reverse his ban on lethal assistance to anti-Assad armed groups. The Saudis had agreed, moreover, that those anti-tank missiles would be doled out to Syrian groups only at U.S. discretion. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the military balance.”
    They brought Putin into the game, that’s for sure.
    Was that a smart move really, Langley?


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