In a recent interview, US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon who is a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said that the Turkish military’s incursion into Afrin was directly affecting the coalitions efforts to combat the Islamic State. The Syrian Democratic Forces have recently relocated a large amount of their forces in an effort to defend Afrin, effectively pulling them away from ISIS hot spots and causing coalition efforts to almost slow to a halt.
Col. Dillon has said, “That is our number one goal, our mission over the last three years has been the same and that is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and in Syria. And there’s no doubt about it, the events that have happened in Afrin – a bloody chapter in the recent history of what’s happened in Syria – it’s a human tragedy – there’s no question that the exodus of some SDF fighters has slowed our advance against those final remaining pockets of ISIS in Syria.”
He continued to say, “If those two [remaining ISIS-held] areas [in Syria] are beehives, the problem is that if you’re not poking them and if you’re not constantly going after them, then you are not going to see a lot of those bees, those ISIS elements starting to run. So that constant offensive pressure on ISIS makes them react, makes them move, makes them talk, which allows us to go after them and kill them with strikes. So that definitely has slowed down our progress against ISIS.”
Col. Dillon assured that the United States led coalition had no intention of abandoning the SDF and their Kurdish allies, “We remain committed to training and advising and supporting our SDF brethren and also the Manbij Military Council.”
When questioned about the coalitions mission in Iraq he clarified that, “We are always assessing and working with the government of Iraq to identify what the future of the coalition looks like as Iraqi Security Forces, all elements, continue to demonstrate more capacity and capabilities to conduct operations on their own. There will be a gradual decrease in coalition forces in Iraq. We are working with all elements, Iraqi Security Force, to include Peshmerga to make sure that ISIS cannot come back, particularly as we look forward to about a month from now when elections will be underway.”
When asked about how the Peshmerga would remain relevant and supported as a security element within the region he responded by saying, “We do that under the government of Iraq, but we do have accounting measures to make sure that the funds and the stipends that we provide are getting to the right place. So there are mechanisms in place to make sure that money gets to the right place for the right purposes.”
Featured Image Courtesy of CJTF-OIR