Syrian government troops were headed north towards the Turkish border Monday after the Kurds called on Damascus and Moscow for military assistance to repeladvancing Turkish forces, according to Syrian state media and a human-rights monitoring group.Regime forces are currently less than four miles away from the border with Turkey and are expected to advance further toward the area surrounding Ras al Ayn border town, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain.The deployment came as the United States heads toward an almost-total withdrawal from Syria.Syrian regime troops began heading north on Sunday to repel Turkish troops in the towns and border territories north of the city of Hasaka and the region of Raqqa, Syria's state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported."The forces of the Turkish regime committed massacres of civilians and occupied territories and destroyed infrastructure," it added.
On Monday, the Syrian flag was hoisted over state institutions in the town of Qamishli on the Turkish-Syrian border, as government troops reached several towns and villages in northeastern Syria, the news agency reported. NBC News could not immediately confirm these reports.Most of Qamishli currently falls under the political and military control of the Kurdish autonomous administration, according to the Rojava Information Center, a pro-Syrian Democratic Forces research group based in the town.Aldar Xelil, a senior Kurdish official, said Monday that the regime would take positions along the border but the political administration of the area would mainly continue to fall under the autonomous administration.Xelil said negotiations were still ongoing and that Russia wanted to negotiate "directly with the Kurds."Kurdish troops turned to the Syrian government and Russia for help Sunday in a desperate move that could increase Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence in Syria, deal a substantial blow to the Kurds' ambitions of independence in the region, and be seen as a win for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."Nobody supports us. This is why we made an agreement with the Russians and the Syrian government," said Ismat Sheik Hassan, a Kurdish official who leads the Kobani Military Council.Mazloum Abdi, the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, wrote in an article for Foreign Policy on Sunday that "we know that we would have to make painful compromises with Moscow and Bashar al-Assad if we go down the road of working with them.""But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people," he said.Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, said President Donald Trump's "decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and green light the Turkish assault hammered a deadly nail in the coffin of the Kurdish dream.""The Kurdish territories fell like ripened fruit into Assad's mouth," he said.U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview Sunday that around 1,000 American troops would leave the area as quickly as possible. Only around 300 soldiers would remain in Syria, two U.S. military officials in the region told NBC News.Russian President Vladimir Putin told Sky News Arabia Sunday that "all forces deployed illegitimately inside any sovereign state — in this case Syria — must leave.""The territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic must be completely restored," Putin added.The intensification of the conflict came as the SDF and the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said Sunday that close to 800 members of a camp holding the families of ISIS fighters had escaped after Turkish shelling. NBC News could not immediately confirm these reports.President Donald Trump has been widely criticizedby U.S lawmakersfor stepping aside in the region to allow the Turkish offensive. The Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces fought ISIS alongside U.S. forces for years.