Thu, 09 Feb 2023

BEIRUT - The Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed group that helped defeat Islamic State in Syria, said on Monday it had resumed joint counter-terrorism operations with the United States that were paused due to Turkish bombardment of its area of control.

A spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Turkey has ramped up its shelling and air strikes on northern Syria in recent weeks and says it is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters whom it dubs terrorists but who make up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses parliament at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, in Ankara, Oct. 1, 2022. The U.S. is trying talk Erdogan out of launching an offensive against American-allied Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria. FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses parliament at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, in Ankara, Oct. 1, 2022. The U.S. is trying talk Erdogan out of launching an offensive against American-allied Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria.

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The SDF had said on Friday that all joint operations had been paused due to the bombardment - a move confirmed by the coalition.

The SDF has long warned that fighting off a new Turkish incursion would divert resources from protecting a prison holding IS fighters or fighting IS sleeper cells still waging hit-and-run attacks in Syria.

Simand Ali, an SDF spokesperson, told Reuters that joint patrols and training exercises with the coalition had resumed at the weekend after a decrease in Turkish strikes, with four joint patrols carried out on Saturday and Sunday.

Joint training exercises had also resumed, he said.

'At the moment, the atmosphere is semi-positive and allows us to undertake joint operations, but we don't know how long these operations will be possible,' given the possibility of a ground invasion, he said.

The United States has said it understands NATO ally Turkey's concerns in Syria but has opposed a ground invasion and said Turkish raids had directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel.

FILE - Syrians walk in a refugee camp for displaced people run by the Turkish Red Crescent in Sarmada district, north of Idlib city, Syria, Nov. 26, 2021. FILE - Syrians walk in a refugee camp for displaced people run by the Turkish Red Crescent in Sarmada district, north of Idlib city, Syria, Nov. 26, 2021.

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The U.S.-led coalition has backed the SDF with air strikes, military equipment and advisers since 2017, first helping it wrest back territory from IS and then supporting clearing operations against jihadist sleeper cells.

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