Syrian SDF unaware of any US withdrawal plan: official

Syrian SDF unaware of any US withdrawal plan: official
An SDF spokesman said the fight against the Islamic State group, which operates under a US-led coalition, is "continuing".
2 min read
30 March, 2018
SDF spokesman Keno Gabriel holding a press conference in Ain Issa [Getty]

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said it was unaware of any plans to withdraw US forces in Syria fighting as part of a coalition against the Islamic State group, Reuters reported.

The remarks come on the heels of President Donald Trump comment on Thursday indicating the US would withdraw from Syria "very soon".

The SDF is the main US partner in the coalition against the Islamic State group. Some 2,000 US fighters are operating in Syria as part of the campaign against the militants.

"Our work and coordination (with the coalition) is continuing in the framework of the support programme and joint operations in all regions," SDF spokesman Keno Gabriel told Reuters.

Gabriel added that Trump's statement "was not clear" and noted "statements that came from other American officials in the American administration did not confirm or deny it".

The spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting against IS declined to comment about the potential withdrawal. However, military personnel rarely comment on future operations.

When US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked about Trump's withdrawal comments, she said she was not aware of any US plans to leave Syria.

Although the Islamic State group has been largely beaten back in Iraq and Syria, the group still holds territory near Hajin, which is along the Euphrates river, and at Dashisha, near the Iraqi border.

Operations against IS have slowed in recent weeks, according to Col. Ryan Dillon. He cited the ongoing fighting between the SDF and the People's Protection Units (YPG) on one hand and Turkey on the other as a factor.

Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20 to weed out Kurdish fighters from the northern Syrian region of Afrin. 

But Dillon added that "[t]he coalition and the SDF continue to find opportunities to exploit ISIS weaknesses and conduct strikes against the remaining terrorists".

Trump's Thursday comments are part of a wider pattern of making off-the-cuff remarks that contradict official US policy. Most recently in January, the now-former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US would maintain an open-ended military presence in Syria.

However, Trump sacked Tillerson earlier in March and cited policy differences as a factor. Trump has also repeatedly expressed, both as a candidate and since assuming office, his desire to extricate the US from foreign wars. 

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