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US Forces resume joint patrols with SDF in north-east Syria, amid looming Turkish operation

December 5, 2022 at 3:47 pm

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) November 13, 2019 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]

American Forces have resumed joint operations and patrols with the Kurdish militias in northern Syria, after a short period in which they were halted due to an air bombardment campaign by Turkiye.

On Tuesday last week, the Chief Commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, told reporters that joint patrols with US and coalition forces were “temporarily paused” because of Turkish airstrikes. The US also confirmed that statement.

The airstrikes carried out by the Turkish military targeted sites and individuals of the SDF and other Kurdish militias like the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as Ankara accuses them and the designated terror organisation, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), of planning and conducting the attack in Istanbul last month, which killed six people and injured over 80.

According to The Washington Post, the patrols resumed on Saturday, after the Turkish aerial campaign had largely subsided. The first joint patrol reportedly consisted of four armoured vehicles belonging to US troops and one belonging to the SDF that were seen leaving an American base near the town of Rmelan in Hassakeh province, heading towards another American base near the Iraqi border.

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For now, the patrols are being limited to areas around one of the Kurdish-run detention camps in north-east Syria, which hosts tens of thousands of relatives – mostly women and children – of Daesh fighters, the latter of whom continue to be detained in prisons in the same region.

It is unclear how long such patrols can continue, though, as Ankara pursues a new military operation and ground intervention into northern Syria in order to eradicate the Kurdish militias, following the Istanbul bombing.

In supposed preparation for that, Turkish military reinforcements have mounted at the Syrian border, while Russia has been mediating between Turkiye and the Syrian Kurdish groups in an attempt to prevent an operation from taking place.

Washington – which backs and assists the Kurdish militias at the disapproval of Turkiye – has also made clear its opposition to an operation, insisting it would destabilise the region. It has, however, acknowledged that Ankara has the right to defend itself, but urged restraint.