(CNN) – These are the first images ever shown publicly from a U.S. special operations training camp in northern Syria.
CNN was the only television network with General Joseph Votel on a secret trip to Syria to meet Kurdish and Arab commanders fighting ISIS. Just as ISIS launched new attacks against Syrian government strongholds killing dozens.
Gen. Votel said, “My principal purpose was to meet with some of the Syrian democratic leadership in multiple locations.” It comes as the U.S. tries, for a second time, to stand up a fighting force. The first attempt crumbled with just a handful of rebels who stayed in the fight.
Now, a dangerous trip Gen. Votel felt he had to make; “I have responsibility for the people we put here so it’s imperative for me to come and see what they are dealing with, to share the risk they are absorbing on a day to day basis.”
From here and other secret nearby locations, the U.S. military is racing time to train enough local Syrian forces, so they can push south towards Raqqa, ISIS’ declared capitol.
Gen. Votel has come to northern Syria under extraordinary security conditions. In fact we have been asked not to reveal a number of details on how we all got here, but Gen. Votel considers this part of the war a top priority. He has come here to meet with some of the U.S. military advisors that are helping some of these local troops you see work to defeat ISIS.
One SDF spokesman is critical; he says his group urgently needs more ammunition and weapons. Beyond the few ammunition supplies he says the U.S. has delivered, U.S. officials say they are working to provide more.
Due to security concerns, CNN was not allowed to show details of the base. Cameras are restricted, security is so high there, the U.S. advisors want their faces shielded but they do want to talk about the training.
(You are a military advisor here. What do you guys do here?) U.S. Special Ops member said, “We are here training the Syrian democratic forces. When I say ‘training”, that’s generally consisting of basic level weapons training, shooting AK 47’s, and shooting larger machine guns.”
Even as the lookouts patrol the surrounding fields and stand watch getting ready for what their future holds.
The U.S. is deploying an additional 250 troops to Syria to help conduct that training.