The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) does not intend to target Daesh fighters in regions controlled by President Bashar Al-Assad, despite concerns that the Syrian government is not doing enough to stop militants, Reuters reported yesterday.
Comments made by British Army Major General Felix Gedney indicate that the coalition will rely on the Syrian regime to combat any remaining Daesh cells.
“We will continue to de-conflict with the Russians, but we have got no intention to operate in areas that are currently held by the regime,” Gedney said.
However, US officials have previously stated that Syrian government forces are too few, too poor and too weak to fight Daesh.
Doubts have also been raised about whether Daesh is being targeted by the Assad regime at all, after several reports of militants passing through government-held territory have come to the fore.
“They seem to be moving with impunity through regime-held territory, showing that the regime is clearly either unwilling or unable to defeat Daesh within their borders,” Gedney added.
“We would call on the Syrian regime to clear ISIS [Daesh] from those areas that are currently under their control.”
The comments come amid a new coalition estimate that less than 1,000 Daesh affiliated fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.
However, the SDF has also been accused of making evacuation deals with Daesh fighters by its former spokesperson, who defected last month from the Kurdish-led coalition to Turkey. Earlier this month Talal Silo alleged that US-backed fighters had struck several deals with Daesh, allowing fighters and their families safe passage out of Raqqa, Manbij and Tabqa.
The US-led coalition has not formally responded to any of Silo’s comments, but human rights organisations have documented Kurdish forces committing war crimes in Syrian territory, including the razing of non-Kurdish villages and forced conscription of minors.
Iraq and Syria have both declared victory over Daesh in recent week. Despite this, American involvement in the region is set to remain, with US Defence Secretary James Mattis stating last month that the military will fight Daesh in Syria “as long as they want to fight”.