Syria’s Qamishli Airbase, located some 70 kilometers from the U.S.-built Rimelan Airbase in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria (which is currently under construction), has been prepared to accommodate Russian military deployments, which, observers say, will allow Russia to monitor both Rimelan and Turkey’s nearby Incirlik airbase.
According to a security source who spoke on condition of anonymity, Russia is currently in the process of expanding Qamishli Airbase, which is located just 3 kilometers from Turkey’s Mardin province.
Qamishli Airbase, which has been used by Syria’s Assad regime as an intelligence and security hub since mid-2013, reportedly caters to Syrian and Iranian cargo planes while also being used to bring Hezbollah fighters into the country.
Earlier this month, 100 Russian troops were flown into the airbase by Syrian planes, according to a Syrian local coordination committee. (Local coordination committees are local groups that organise and report on anti-regime activities.)
Observers say fresh military deployments by Russia will allow the Assad regime -- of which Moscow is an ally -- to bolster its presence in Qamishli, which is the largest district of Syria’s northeastern Al-Hasakah province.
Currently, 25 percent of Qamishli is under regime control, while much of the rest is held by Kurdish PYD forces.
Fresh Russian deployments in Qamishli will also allow the Assad regime to better coordinate with military and logistic support from both Iraq and Iran.
Before launching its current air campaign in Syria on Sept. 30 of last year, Russia had also stepped up military deployments to the Hmeymim Airbase in western Syria.
U.S. airbases in region
The U.S. also has an airbase in Syria’s Al-Hasakah province (in addition to Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase, from which it is currently conducting anti-Daesh operations).
The U.S. military has also just finished preparations for building a new airbase in the PYD-controlled part of Al-Hasakah.
The Abu-Hajar Airbase in Rimelan, previously devoted mainly to crop-dusting, was recently expanded by the U.S. so as to be used as an "advanced liaison center" between the U.S. and the PYD for ongoing anti-Daesh operations.
Earlier this month, the base was enlarged to accommodate helicopters. It is not yet equipped to accommodate warplanes, however.
According to an Anadolu Agency correspondent who visited the site, the U.S. military has built buildings for both training and logistics near the Rimelan Airbase, while a second airbase is now under construction in a nearby village.
Rimelan was handed over to the PYD in 2014 under the terms of an agreement between the PYD and the Assad regime.
Since the beginning of last year, the PYD has -- with U.S. support -- captured several strategic positions in northern Syria. Last October, however, the group appeared to warm up to Russia.
The U.S.-built Rimelan Airbase will be threatened by Russia’s expansion of the Qamishli Airbase, where -- in addition to warplanes -- Russia is expected to deploy air-to-ground missile batteries.
According to security sources who insisted on anonymity, Russia has also recently set up an SA-5 missile system at Kuweires Airbase, located 35 kilometers north of Aleppo.
Were Russia to establish an SA-5 missile system -- which is capable of delivering missiles at a range of 300 kilometers -- in Qamishli, both the Rimelan and Incirlik airbases would come within range, say security sources.