Syrian Kurds may 'quit anti-IS battle' if Turkey attacks

Syrian Kurds may 'quit anti-IS battle' if attacked by Turkey
3 min read
21 December, 2018
Trump's shock decision to pull out of Syria has left the Kurds, a group that helped rout IS from most of the country, vulnerable to attack from Turkey.
Syrian Kurdish forces leading the battle against Islamic State remnants in Syria could withdraw from the frontlines and redeploy to the Turkish border if the region they control is attacked by Turkey, one of their leaders said on Friday in Paris.

Two leaders of the political wing of the Kurdish-led force, who held talks with French officials about the planned US military withdrawal from Syria, also said they feared the escape of some 1,000 militants being held in Syrian Kurdish jails should guards be drafted to fight elsewhere.

The Kurds are seen as the big losers of Trump's shock decision to pull out of Syria, a move that leaves a group that helped rout IS from most of Syria vulnerable to attack from Turkey.

Ilham Ahmad, one of two co-chairs of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), warned that a Turkish attack could bring the battle against the IS in Syria to a halt.

"We will continue our mission but confronting this terrorism will be difficult because our forces will be forced to withdraw from the frontlines in Deir az-Zour to take up positions on the border with Turkey to counter any attack we may face," she said.

The Kurds are seen as the big losers of Trump's shock decision to pull out of Syria, a move that leaves a group that helped rout IS from most of Syria vulnerable to attack from Turkey

She also warned that Syrian Kurdish forces could "lose control" over detained foreign jihadists if IS used the US pull-out to regroup, or if Turkey pushed ahead with its threatened offensive against the Kurds' self-declared autonomous region of Rojava.

Hundreds of foreign IS fighters are being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons.

Asked if the Kurds would go as far as releasing them, Riad Darar, the council's other co-chair, said: "Of course not. But we fear that the chaos will not allow us to protect the premises where they are located."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to root out Kurdish fighters - whom he calls a "terrorist offshoot" of Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party - from northern Syria.

"We're asking the French for diplomatic support to develop dialogue and assure peace and stability in the region," Ahmad said.

"We also asked that (French) forces uphold their task in the region until a political solution is found," she added.

Earlier, Islamic State jihadists staged a counter-attack in eastern Syria in the wake of the US decision to fully withdraw troops from the war-torn country.

IS terrorists "are launching currently counter-attacks on Hajin town, which mean that they got high morals from US decision to withdraw from Syria," SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali tweeted.

IS militants also attacked the village of Abu Khater in the Hajin area using heavy weapons and vehicle-borne explosive devices.

The anti-IS coalition provided airstrikes in the area, killing 13 jihadist fighters and 14 of their relatives, a war monitor said.

The raids targeted IS positions in Al-Shaafa, one of the two main villages in the last pocket of territory still controlled by IS in the Euphrates River valley.

The United States could end its air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria when it pulls out troops, US officials have said.

The air war has been the keystone of anti-IS US operations in Syria.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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