A number of reports have emerged in January and February this year from different sources, mainly from media  about how the US has begun construction of an airbase in traditional Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) controlled area in northeast Syria or more precisely in Hasakah province and in close vicinity of Rmaylan town. According to Rumored Intelligence (RUMINT) the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has extended  an already existing 700m long airstrip, used to serve to local community as an agricultural runway, and have deployed troops there. The US based Intelligence firm STRATFOR even published an article  describing it as an US effort to support the multiple factions in Syria who are fighting against the Islamic State (IS). Indeed, it was immediately officially denied by US CENTCOM as their effort, but neither was it confirmed as a potential CIA operation. Hence, a lot of back-and-forth from different players, which keeps these issues obscured.
One thing is certain, such a move could have very serious implications for the US in the political/diplomatic and military areas, both areas holding quite sensitive levels. The political and diplomatic issues arise from seemingly not having permission from the government, yet clearly showing support for one of the factions earmarked as terrorist group by the main US ally in the region – Turkey. Secondly, militarily, it is very questionable what is to gain or what is the advantage of having any kind of forward operating base which requires a robust protection force located within a very dynamic and fragile security environment. All is about timing, as always.
The likely purpose of building a small airstrip with basic infrastructure is either to accommodate an uninterrupted flow of US supplies to the area or a US military UAV base. However, if any of aforementioned speculation is true, a persisting problem speaking in logistically and structurally sense is; why have the engineers been requested to build a short airfield for tactical support? Assuming there is no obstructions of any kind on a local level and according to both the experience and capabilities of the US Army Corps of Engineers (CoE) and their ability to plan, design and build an airbase with minimal requirements, an example of which is:
- enhancing of runway’s condition (surface and safety),
- fencing of location,
- installation of basic runway lighting system,
- ensuring sustainable fuel supplies,
- build in an independent power-supply system,
- installation of maintenance blocks,
- staff accommodation,
- and more.
The time frame from initiation of the project to getting it up and operational is approximately two months to operational status. Having said that, and if the US has activated this project, the airbase should be up-and running by then.
- http://www.voanews.com/content/us-confirms-involvement-in-syria-airport-expansion/3176116.html, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/24364-us-to-build-second-airbase-in-syria,
- claimed extension of runway upto 2500 m would be long enough to allow operations of C-130 type of transport a/c