Find the latest breaking news and information on the top stories, science, business, entertainment, politics, and more.

Syria condemns US general’s visit to Kurdish-held northeast

The State Department condemns Mark Milley’s surprise visit, calling it “illegal,” according to state media reports.

The Syrian foreign ministry has condemned a surprise visit by the United States’ top military officer to an army base in the Kurdish-occupied northeast, calling it “illegal,” state media reported.

During his brief visit on Saturday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, met US troops stationed in areas of war-torn Syria under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

About 900 US soldiers are deployed to various bases and posts in northeastern Syria as part of the fight against ISIL (ISIS) group remnants.

The official SANA news agency quoted a State Department official on Sunday as saying: “Syria strongly condemns the illegal visit of the US Chiefs of Staff to an illegal US military base in northeastern Syria.”

Milley’s visit was “a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity” of Syrian territory, the official added, according to SANA, and called on “the U.S. government to immediately cease its systematic and continued violation of international law and its support to separatist armed groups”.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad regards the deployment of US troops in SDF-controlled territory as “occupation” and accuses the US Kurdish forces of “separatist tendencies”.

Kurdish officials deny any separatist aspirations, saying they are trying to maintain their self-government, which Damascus does not recognize.

Milley’s spokesman, Dave Butler, told AFP news agency the US general “visited northeastern Syria on Saturday … to meet with commanders and troops”.

It was Milley’s first trip to Syria since assuming the presidency in 2019. He previously visited the country as an army chief, the spokesman said.

During the visit, Milley received “updates on the counter-ISIS mission,” Butler added.

The general also “inspected measures to protect the armed forces and alleged repatriation efforts for the al-Hol refugee camp,” which is home to more than 50,000 people, including relatives of suspected foreign ISIL fighters whose home countries have not taken them back.

The US-led coalition fighting IS supports SDF, led by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

After ISIL fighters lost their last territory to SDF-led forces in 2019, the SDF has cracked down on the remnants of ISIL, whose members continue to carry out deadly attacks in Syria.

US forces have killed or arrested ISIL figures in numerous operations, including the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019.

On February 19, the US military said forces collaborating with SDF captured an ISIL provincial official.

The attack came a day after four US soldiers were wounded as they launched another attack to kill a senior ISIL group leader in northeastern Syria, the US military’s Central Command said.