ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - France’s defense minister on Tuesday said that it may be impossible to continue the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria without the US, which recently announced its withdrawal from the war-torn country.
“Rafales [French fighter jets] taking off. In less than an hour, they will be over northeastern Syria. We have a mission to complete against IS, we will carry it out up to its end,” France’s defense minister Florence Parly tweeted on Tuesday after a visit on Monday to French troops stationed in Jordan.
According to Le Figaro, which reported from Jordan, Parly confirmed that “without the Americans, who carry out 90 percent of the strikes - plus their contribution in terms of intelligence, air-to-air refueling, and bombardment guidance - the mission could become quite complicated, almost impossible.”
“Without them, it may not be obvious, realistic or effective,” she conceded.
Hence, the minister reiterated, the coalition needs to “move quickly” to defeat IS.
“We must make the best use of the time between now and an effective withdrawal of the Americans to complete the work,” she explained.
Indeed, France has stated its intention to remain in regions liberated from IS as US president Donald Trump announced in December that he would withdraw troops from Syria. Many analysts fear that an early departure would create a security vacuum and undo the progress made against the jihadist group.
“To coincide the departure of the Americans, if it materializes, with the complete defeat of the jihadists would obviously be an ideal scenario. But there are many unknowns in this race against time,” Parly concluded.
On Dec. 23, President Emmanuel Macron expressed his disappointment with his American counterpart’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
Officials have expressed concerns that the decision may put the coalition’s partners on the ground, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in a dangerous position.
The co-leaders of the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the SDF’s political branch, on Dec. 21 met with advisors to the French President.
In the Netherlands, one government party has suggested it could be possible to form a ‘coalition of the willing,’ together with the UK and France, to replace US forces.
However, experts doubt Europe would take such a decision, fearing Turkey, who is opposed to Western support for the Kurdish component of the SDF, could loosen its border security and open the corridor for refugees hoping to reach the European continent.
Alternatively, the SDF has indicated it may work to strike a deal with Damascus, but so far, no agreement has been reached despite recent talks in Moscow.
On Dec. 28, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the leading component of the SDF, called on the Syrian state to protect Manbij against a Turkish attack and to protect its borders. An attack on the Kurdish-administered regions, many fear, could affect the fight against IS, as was experienced last year when Turkey led an incursion into Afrin, redirecting the YPG’s efforts away from the Euphrates frontline.
The YPG’s spokesperson, Nouri Mahmoud, told Kurdistan 24 on Monday that coalition countries would not be opposed to an agreement between the Syrian government and the SDF.
“If any agreement happens with the Syrian state, I don’t think it would be objected by any force, including any member of the coalition, even if the US leaves,” he argued.
As of now, no coalition troop has left the northeast of Syria, Mahmoud affirmed, nor has any deal with Damascus been made.
“But if it happens, any deployment of the Syrian state army will be according to international law. The Syrian state has the right to defend its land and people.”
Editing by Nadia Riva