The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed group that helped defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in Syria, has stopped all joint counterterrorism operations as a result of Turkish bombardment on its area of control, Reuters reported, citing a spokesman.
Turkey has ramped up its shelling and airstrikes on northern Syria in recent weeks and is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters that it labels terrorists but which make up the bulk of the US-supported SDF.
The SDF has long warned that fighting off a new Turkish incursion would divert resources away from protecting a camp holding ISIL fighters or targeting ISIL sleeper cells still waging hit-and-run attacks in Syria.
Aram Henna told Reuters that “all coordination and joint counterterrorism operations with the coalition” as well as “all the joint special operations we were carrying out regularly” had been halted.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder earlier told reporters that operations against ISIL had not stopped.
SDF head Mazloum Abdi earlier this week told Reuters he wanted a “stronger” message from Washington after seeing unprecedented Turkish deployments along the border.
“We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkey,” he said. “Turkey has announced its intent and is now feeling things out. The beginning of an invasion will depend on how it analyzes the positions of other countries.”