QAMISHLI, Syria Dec 2 (Reuters) – The Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed group that has helped defeat Islamic State jihadists in Syria, said on Friday it had halted all joint counterterrorism operations with the United States and other allies as it results. of the Turkish bombing of its area of control.
It has increased its shelling and air strikes on northern Syria in recent weeks and is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters it suspects are terrorists but make up the bulk of the US-backed SDF .
The SDF has long warned that fighting a new Turkish invasion would divert resources from defending prisons housing IS fighters or fighting IS sleeper cells that are still carrying out hit-and-run attacks in Syria.
Aram Henna told Reuters that “all coordinated and cooperative counter-terrorism operations” with the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of Islamic State in Syria and “all the joint special operations that we have been conducting regularly” had been halted. .
Turkey’s bombing – using both long-range weapons and airstrikes – has deterred NATO ally Washington.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday that the US was in “strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria”.
Austin added that the Turkish raids “directly threaten the safety of US personnel who are working with local partners in Syria to defeat ISIS,” according to the Pentagon. Read more
The US-led coalition has supported the SDF with airstrikes, military equipment and advisers since 2017, helping to secure territory back from IS and then supporting clearance operations against jihadist sleeper cells.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier-General Patrick Ryder told reporters that only joint patrols had been suspended and that operations against IS had not been halted.
The US-led coalition did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters on Friday about whether more operations had been suspended.
Sheikhmous Ahmed, head of the displacement department in northeastern Syria, told Reuters that Turkish raids in late November had disrupted operations in and around al-Hol, a detention camp housing women and children affiliated with IS fighters. .
He said humanitarian operations were suspended for several days and some minors linked to IS tried to escape but were caught.
A Western source briefed on the matter confirmed that there was “some worrying movement” in the section where foreign women and children with links to IS were held.
SDF leader Mazloum Abdi told Reuters earlier this week that he wanted a “stronger” message from Washington after seeing an unprecedented Turkish deployment along the border. Read more
“We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkey,” he said. “Turkey has announced its intention and is now feeling things out. The start of the invasion will depend on how it will analyze the positions of other countries.”
Reporting by Orhan Qereman in Qamishli, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman and Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul; Written by Maya Gebeily Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Kim Coghill, William Maclean
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