US allies ‘temporarily’ halt campaign against IS in Syria
Washington: The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have announced a pause in their campaign against the Islamic State (IS) terror group following clashes with Turkish forces, according to American military officials.
The US-led coalition fighting the IS has conducted scores of air and artillery strikes in recent weeks as it has sought to drive the group from its last stronghold east of the Euphrates River in Syria, CNN reported on Thursday.
The IS has been driven to just a few towns in the area and the US and its coalition allies conducted 184 air and artillery strikes last week targeting the terror group’s last remaining territory, striking command and control centres, weapons caches and vehicles.
“Turkish attacks in the north and IS attacks in the south against our troops had forced us to stop our current operation temporarily against ISIS in the last pocket of it,” the SDF said in a statement.
“We also call the international community to condemn the Turkish provocations in the safe areas in Syria, and we demand our partners in the International Coalition to show a clear attitude and stop Turkey from launching attacks on the region,” it added.
The halting of the operation is a major setback for the US and its allies and comes after Turkey threatened a new military operation targeting the Kurdish-led SDF.
Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson told CNN that the US was encouraging “all parties to avoid escalation and focus on the most important task of defeating IS”, adding that “the campaign against IS is not over and the fight remains very difficult”.
The approximately 50,000-strong SDF are a mix of Kurdish and Arab fighters and have been the primary ground force fighting IS in much of the country.
The US has some 2,000 troops in Syria, many of whom work with the SDF.