Since mid-January, US troops in northeast Syria have cut off Russian patrols nearly a dozen times and forced them to turn back or take roundabout routes to reach their destinations. These cutoffs have clustered along two roads leading to American military positions, delineating zones of US influence, including critical infrastructure, four months after Trump’s withdrawal decision. The traffic incidents also coincide with the US military building up bases in northeast Syria, which indicates America is reasserting itself in the area as it puts the brakes on Russian attempts to expand.
“The Russian patrols often change their direction when they see American armored vehicles nearby,” said Ivan Hassib, a local journalist who is covering the unfolding US-Russian patrol drama and has witnessed three traffic stops along the M4 highway. “Whereas the Americans, the opposite — they’re following Russian patrols like a police officer chases a thief.”