As published by Kurdistan 24 by Wladimir van Wilgenburg
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) remain focused on the fight against the so-called Islamic state and have arrested over 225 suspected militants in the last four months, the US-led coalition said in a statement on Sunday.
The statement followed a renewed threat on Sunday by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch a unilateral offensive into northeastern Syria if Turkish demands on the so-called “safe zone” were not met within three weeks.
The Turkish president said the Turkish army should control the safe zone, the Associated Press reported.
“If our soldiers do not start to control the area actively, we will have no choice but to activate our own operational plans,” Erdogan said.
On Aug. 7, 2019, Turkey and the US agreed on a new security mechanism designed to address the former’s concerns regarding northeastern Syria.
However, according to the coalition, the “the SDF supported the US-Turkey security mechanism effort by removing fortifications and retrograding negotiated forces and heavy weapons away from the Turkey-Syria border.”
During a meeting with Arab tribes in Tal Abyad on Sunday to discuss the recent Turkish threats, lham Ahmed, the president of the Syrian Democratic Council’s Executive Council, said the Kurdish side is flexible with the recent agreements between Washington and Ankara “to build a principled and sustainable peace process with Turkey to preserve security on both sides of the borders.”
Amy Austin Holmes, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, said the US has spent “considerable time and energy” to reach an agreement on the mechanism that guarantees the security of both the SDF and Turkey.
“It looked like a victory for diplomacy. And yet, President Erdogan continues to threaten to attack Syria even after the agreement was reached,” she told Kurdistan 24. “At some point, we have to ask ourselves: is making concessions to Erdogan a meaningful use of our time?”
In their statement, the US-led coalition underlined that the SDF continues to conduct difficult operations to defeat the Islamic State, and has removed over 4,000 pounds of explosives from the battlefield in the last two months.
“Regional security in northeast Syria is essential for stability and reconstruction efforts that further contribute to the enduring defeat of [ISIS],” the statement continued.
“Our partners continue to conduct difficult operations to relentlessly pursue [ISIS] and eliminate a future for them in northeast Syria,” US Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric Hill, Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR) commander, stated.
“The SDF’s continued efforts are critical to the safety and stability of the region,” Hill added.
“Security challenges lay ahead, but our SDF partners are taking the right steps in support of the region to ensure the enduring defeat of [ISIS].”
The SOJTF-OIR is the special operations arm of the US-led coalition that operates in both Iraq and Syria.
Indeed, other senior American officials have reaffirmed US support for the Kurdish forces. On Friday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Mulroy told Kurdistan 24 that “our partners are the most important asset we have.”
We are “committed to being a steady partner,” while providing “a positive backbone architecture for regional security,” Mulroy added.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany