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Large movements of US forces from Syria into northwestern Iraq, as conflicting reports surround rare arrest of a mukhtar south of Kirkuk

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The situation in northern Syria remains tense amongst the tenuous pause in Turkish offensive operations. Kurdish authorities agreed to withdraw from segment of the border between Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain extending 120 kilometers, but the Turkish government is calling for a significantly longer “safe zone” extending 440 kilometers along the border. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) completed their withdrawal from the besieged border town of Ras al-Ain as part of the agreement. Although the five-day cease-fire is said to be holding in general, conflict activity is not absent. On 20 October, the SDF announced that 20 of its fighters were killed or wounded during Turkish bombardments over the past 24-hours alone.

On the morning of 21 October, a US military convoy comprised of approximately 100 vehicles entered the KR-I from Syria via the Sahela border crossing in Dohuk province. Angry residents of Dohuk reportedly pelted the convoy with rotten potatoes in a clear demonstration of anti-US atmospherics surrounding these developments. On 20 September, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed that nearly all US forces in Syria, approximately 1,000 personnel, were withdrawing due to the Turkish military operation. More than 700 personnel are expected to be redeployed to unspecified areas of western Iraq as part of the ongoing campaign against IS. A small contingent of approximately 200 US military personnel may remain deployed near oilfields in northeastern Syria in order to deny IS access to relevant revenue streams.

On the morning of 20 October, Iraqi Army personnel arrested the mukhtar of Ali Saray village, located southwest of Daquq town. The reason behind the arrest was initially unclear, with local reporting citing two conflicting sets of circumstances. Some reporting suggests the mukhtar may have been arrested for inciting ethnic tensions between Kurdish and Arab families surrounding a previously discussed land dispute and associated altercation in Iftikhar village on 14 October. Alternative reporting suggests the mukhtar may have been arrested following a set of IS-related arrests in different areas of Daquq district in mid-October. Interrogations of the detainees indicated the mukhtar provided IS with information regarding the disposition of ISF units.

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