RAQQA, Syria (Kurdistan 24) – US-backed forces in eastern Syria said on Tuesday that they had decided to withdraw from the front lines of the war against the Islamic State (IS) to battle Turkey, an ally of the United States and member of NATO, elsewhere in the country.
In a press conference held in the former IS de facto capital of Raqqa city, commanders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that some of their brigades have pulled back from eastern Euphrates River and will be redeployed to Afrin, in the country’s northwest.
SDF commanders said they decided to go and defend their people in Afrin against the continued Turkish assault, which he said had been met with international silence towards
“We have been waiting for 45 days for the international community to take action to stop attacks on Afrin," Abu Omad AlIdlibi, general commander of SDF ally Army of Revolutionaries, told Kurdistan 24.
According to the commanders at the press conference, brigades now heading for Afrin include AlIdlibi's Army of Revolutionaries and the North Democratic Brigades.
SDF officials confirm this step will decrease their effectiveness in fighting against IS, especially in ongoing operations near Deir Ezzor and Abu Kamal, where fighters from the jihadist group routinely stage attacks on SDF-held areas.
“Moving such a sizable force from here to other regions to fight against the barbaric Turkish attacks - of course, to defend their people as well, … will slow down the operation against IS,” a senior SDF commander known as Luqman told Kurdistan 24.
Officials from the United States Department of Defense have previously warned that Turkish operations in Afrin would negatively affect the war with IS.
In response to the redeployment, the Turkish government asked the United States to block Kurdish commanders from diverting their forces from eastern Syria westward to Afrin.
Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said his country had taken “the necessary steps” through official channels and “expected from the US that it absolutely should step in” to prevent the movement of the Kurdish forces from Manbij to Afrin.
There was no immediate American response to the request.
The Turkish attack on Afrin began in January, with Turkey threatening to drive Kurdish forces from the entire Syria-Turkey border.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Reporting in Kurdish by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih from Raqqa)