All I saw were a few Kurdish soldiers standing around a barricade. But, past the checkpoint and up a hill, a vast encampment spread out before us. The perimeter was constructed of dirt berms, sod-filled gabions, and razor wire. The runway was more than a mile long, and sunk below grade, so that planes would seem to disappear as they landed. There were hastily constructed wood buildings, huge clamshell tents, stacks of shipping containers, rows of white trucks and sport-utility vehicles, prefabricated trailers housing showers and latrines, and a dusty athletic field where soldiers were jogging around a track in the desert twilight.
Inside the main gate were soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, and many others in civilian attire wearing sidearms or carrying assault rifles. Quite a few were women. Everyone looked well fed. There was a telecommunications tower, and the Wi-Fi was the best I’d had in weeks of reporting around Syria. A small store sold cigarettes, snacks, candy, energy drinks, and protein powder, as well as cheap souvenirs like kaffiyehs and fake daggers. For fifteen dollars, I bought a sweatshirt that said “Syriagonia” instead of Patagonia.
The American intervention in Syria, now in its fourth year, began as a small Special Forces mission of the kind the Pentagon is currently running in a dozen countries. In the fall of 2015, when President Barack Obama deployed fifty commandos to advise the Syrian Kurds in their war with the Islamic State, his Administration denied that he was breaking his promise not to put “boots on the ground.”
Read more: Newyorker
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