Syrian President Bashar al-Assad referred to the 400 new U.S. troops who recently deployed to Syria as “invaders,” in an interview with Chinese television.
“Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation … are invaders,” Assad said, responding to a question about 400 U.S. troops close to northern Syrian city of Manbij, Reuters reports.
“We don’t think this is going to help,” he added in the interview with the Chinese TV station Phoenix, which Syrian state news posted Saturday.
These additional U.S. troops have been shipped into the region to prevent fights from breaking out between Turkey and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is largely composed of Kurds, who have a long-standing enmity with Ankara.
The new 400 troops, who are also set to help rebels take back Raqqa from ISIS, won’t breach any caps because the assignment will last for no more than 120 days. There are already 500 U.S. troops stationed in Syria.
The SDF are moving against Turkish forces and other rebel groups in Manbij.
While Assad said he was hopeful to strike up a fresh relationship of cooperation with Trump, what he’s seen so far hasn’t been very encouraging. Assad brushed off the U.S.-led effort against the Islamic State as “only a few raids” and said that “we haven’t seen anything concrete,” despite strong rhetoric coming from President Donald Trump about crushing ISIS.
Although Assad still faces opposition from rebel groups funded by the U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia, he’s retaken several important cities in Syria with military backing from Russia and Iran. Still, it’s unclear how far Russia and Iran will go to ensure that Assad retakes eastern Syria.
Peace talks have fallen through in Geneva, giving Assad a strong edge in the conflict on the ground.
Assad also noted in the interview that ties between Syria and China were “on the rise” to combat the surge of Uighur militants moving in from western China.
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