MOSCOW, December 16. /TASS/. In order to weaken US presence in Syria, it is necessary to strike terrorist groups active in the area and persuade local groups cooperating with the US to support the Syrian government instead, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with the SANA news agency published on Monday.
"First, the Americans rely on terrorists. The terrorists must be attacked, this is a priority for us in Syria. Striking the terrorists weakens the American presence one way or another," al-Assad said.
He added that there are groups "acting under American command" in Syria. "These groups must be persuaded, one way or another and particularly through dialogue, that it is in all our interests in Syria that they embrace the homeland and join the Syrian state’s efforts to liberate all its territories," the Syrian leader stated. "At that point, it’s only natural that there will be no prospect for an American presence."
The Syrian president noted that the exact number of American troops in Syria is hard to determine, as apart from the US military, there are private firms contracted by the US. "So even if they had a few hundred American soldiers in Syria, they still also have thousands - maybe tens of thousands, of civilians working for such companies and fighting in Syria. That’s why it is difficult to know the real number, but it is certainly in the thousands," he said.
On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army carrying it out. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military campaign kicked off with airstrikes on the positions of the previously US-backed Kurdish units. The Erdogan government claimed that its goal is to clear the border area of what it calls ‘terrorists’ (Turkey’s broad label of the Kurdish forces) and establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle.
For its part, Washington announced withdrawal of US troops from the area of Turkey’s military operation; however, it informed that the US aims to maintain control over oil fields in northeastern Syria.