US-backed offensive against ISIS to resume after pause
The US-backed ground offensive against some of ISIS’s final strongholds in Syria is set to resume after coming to a halt following cross-border clashes between the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces and Turkey.
The SDF announced its intent to resume offensive operations on Sunday.
“The Coalition can confirm the SDF will restart offensive operations,” Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, told CNN.
The pause at the end of October represented a major setback to US efforts to defeat the terrorist group, and the US has since engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity in an effort to reduce tensions.
As part of that effort, following the cross-border attacks, the US military conducted a series of “assurance patrols” last week with the SDF in northern Syria to help reassure its local Syrian allies.
US and Turkish and troops have also recently been conducting combined joint patrols in the vicinity of Manbij, Syria, the outcome of an agreement between Washington and Ankara last June, when Turkey demanded the withdrawal of the US-backed Kurdish militia that seized Manbij in 2016.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, spoke on the phone earlier this month with their Turkish counterparts to discuss the situation in Syria.
The SDF issued a statement Sunday saying that following “intensive diplomatic efforts aimed to defuse the crisis on the border,” the group now “saw the need to continue its operations.”
Late last month the SDF announced a pause in its campaign against ISIS following cross-border shelling by Turkish forces.
Turkey sees the SDF, a mix of Kurdish and Arab fighters, as linked to the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that Ankara and Washington both consider to be a terrorist organization.
Despite that pause, the US-led coalition fighting ISIS conducted over 100 air and artillery strikes in recent weeks as it has sought to drive ISIS from its last stronghold east of the Euphrates River in Syria.