The U.S. has deployed troops in northern Iraq's Sinjar Mountain region in hopes to establish control over the Iraq-Syria border, according to a spokesman for the Arab tribes of Iraq's northern Nineveh province.
"Roughly 150 U.S. troops and about 20 armored vehicles have recently been deployed to Nineveh's Sinjar area," Muzahim al-Hewitt told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday.
"The deployment came as a surprise to the Hashd al-Shaabi [a Shiite contingent of the Iraqi army that also maintains a presence in Sinjar], but it does not appear to have bothered PKK terrorists in the area," he added.
According to al-Hewitt, the region's Arab tribes oppose the U.S.' military support for the PKK, which they believe was sent to the region "by foreign powers."
The U.S. has also militarily supported the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), on the pretext of the fighting Daesh in the country - a decision that has strained Washington's ties with its NATO ally Turkey.
The PKK has engaged in an armed conflict with Turkey since 1984 in the country's southeast region along the border with Iraq. The terrorist group maintains bases in northern Iraq. Turkey has in the past launched airstrikes and ground operations inside Iraq to rout the terrorists. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and the U.S.
In mid-2014, PKK said it sent fighters into Sinjar - about 120 kilometers west of the Iraqi city of Mosul - on the pretext of "protecting" the local Yazidi community from Daesh terrorists, which at the time had overrun large swaths of northern Iraq.
However, the group has not left the area since, despite opposition from the Iraqi officials.
The local communities have reportedly faced oppression, including forced recruitment by the terrorist group.
On Saturday, Sinjar District Governor Mahma Khalil also confirmed that the U.S. has recently deployed troops in Sinjar.
Speaking to AA, Khalil said U.S. forces hoped to establish a military base on Mount Sinjar.
Earlier on Friday, Col. Ahmed al-Jubouri, head of the army's Nineveh operations command, said an Iraqi force, accompanied by U.S. "advisers," has assumed control over the border zone between Syria and Iraq.
"It is likely that this force will establish a permanent military base on Mount Sinjar," al-Jubouri said.
Turkey launched the Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria's Afrin against the YPG on Jan. 20. It has been also announced that an operation is currently underway against the PKK in northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains, where the group has established a command-and-control headquarters, and training camps. Earlier this year, after Turkey hinted at a possible military operation in Sinjar, the PKK announced plans to withdraw from the region. Ankara says the PKK has established itself logistically in Sinjar as well.
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