In the backdrop of a Turkish incursion into northern Syria, the U.S.-led coalition combating ISIS in Iraq and Syria is touting recent successes of its partner forces in countering ISIS militants in the region.
According to a release from Operation Inherent Resolve, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have nabbed several ISIS commanders and facilitators in counterterrorism operations spanning Oct. 2 to Oct. 5. The captured ISIS fighters include Nawraz al-Jalud, an ISIS explosives expert, Islamic State commander Shafaq al-Hachim and ISIS financier Jammal Al-Mabruk.
However, the dates of those operations predate the White House’s Sunday evening announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing troops from northeastern Syria pending a Turkish operation in the region to rout Kurdish militants and establish a safe zone.
And the status of current anti-ISIS operations by the U.S. and SDF forces is Syria is unclear. Officials with OIR have yet to respond to questions posed by Military Times.
Turkish military operations are now underway. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tweeted on Wednesday the start of Operation Peace Spring against Kurdish militants and ISIS terrorists.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the campaign, which followed an announcement Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump that American troops would step aside in a shift in U.S. policy that essentially abandoned the Syrian Kurds. They were longtime U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.
“Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” Erdogan tweeted. The operation “will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.”
Turkey views YPG fighters who fought under the larger SDF umbrella as an armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — an internationally recognized terrorist group.
Washington’s decision to arm YPG fighters in its fight against ISIS has created rifts with Ankara — a fellow NATO ally.
The SDF press office tweeted Wednesday that there is an “intensive bombardment” by Turkish aircraft targeting military and civilian positions in several cities in northern Syria to include Tal Abyad.
Analysts and national security experts contend Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria could cause a resurgence of ISIS in the region. SDF forces control a number of prisons and refugee camps housing tens of thousands of ISIS families and ISIS fighters.
President Donald Trump has said Turkey will bear responsibility for maintaining those prisoners. A Trump administration official told reporters Monday that the U.S. had only moved a small handful of U.S. special operations forces out of the zone of Turkish operations in northern Syria, and that the U.S. was not conducting a full withdrawal from the country.
“Turkey has neither the intent, desire, nor capacity to manage 60k detainees in al Hol camp, which State and DoD IGs [inspector general] warn is the nucleus for a resurgent ISIS. Believing otherwise is a reckless gamble with our national security,” Brett McGurk, Trump’s former envoy for the fight against ISIS, tweeted.
Tuesday evening, the SDF press center posted to social media reports that ISIS fighters and suicide bombers had attacked Raqqa, Syria — the once former self-proclaimed capital of ISIS’ caliphate. The SDF claimed the attacks by ISIS fighters were launched to exploit the security situation ahead of Turkey’s planned operations in northern Syria.
Officials with Operation Inherent Resolve would not confirm the ISIS attack on the city.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the U.S. has spent $8 trillion fighting and “policing” the Middle East. Trump also tweeted that “GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!"
Trump has routinely made the case for ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.