We bump through the mud-brick villages. Wide-eyed children stop playing marbles in the dirt to gaze at us. Old men wearing keffiyehs, the traditional red and white headscarf, peer suspiciously. This corner of northern Syria -- close to the border with Iraq -- is a mix of Arab tribes and Kurds, Muslims and Christians. It has long been neglected, despite its oil and farming, by the Syrian regime hundreds of miles away in Damascus. But in the war against ISIS, Hasakah is suddenly a place of interest, and especially for the Pentagon.
An elderly farmer living nearby, rake-thin with a weathered brown face, offers tea to the minibus of strange visitors, breaking off from his duties tending sheep on behalf of a sheikh of the Shammar tribe, a powerful Arab group that has good relations with the Kurds.He says he has heard helicopters and other aircraft. But he's not seen anything land here. He seems bemused by the interest.