A coalition official reported that President Barack Obama’s envoy to the U.S.-led coalition against the ISIS visited northern Syria over the weekend, marking the first known visit by a senior U.S. official to Syria ever since the beginning of the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in August 2014.
British and French officials accompanied Brett McGurk in Kobani, where Kurdish forces in cooperation with U.S.-led airstrikes drove back ISIS militants a year ago, passing the extremists one of their major defeats.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.
A U.S. official reported the two-day visit was intended to evaluate progress in the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIS, noting that McGurk met with a coalition of Arab and Kurdish commanders and fighters to confer about latest operations against ISIS.
The official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said McGurk also visited Kobani to pay tribute to those who lost their life defying the militants and meet with civilian administration officials as the one year anniversary of Kobani’s liberation draws nearer.
A coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is supported by the U.S., has arisen as the leading fighting force against ISIS in northern Syria. A few dozen special operations forces were sent by the U.S. administration to northern Syria to back it up.
Furthermore, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group that monitors the conflict, also reported the visit by McGurk took place over the weekend. The delegation landed by helicopter in the Rmeilan air base in northeastern Syria, the report said.
According to activists, the American administration has lately been working on expanding the air base in Rmeilan village with the intention of it serving as a military base for U.S. forces in northern Syria. Nasser Haj Mansour, a Kurdish defense official in Syria, also told the AP recently that U.S. personnel were restoring some airstrips constructed years ago by the Syrian government for small aircraft in case they were needed in the future.
U.S. envoy McGurk’s visit to northern Syria remained unconfirmed until a U.S. official affirmed otherwise.