United States led coalition forces were put on an operational pause after Syrian Democratic Forces reallocated nearly 1,300 fighters to combating Turkey’s military aggression in northern Syria. Now operations have continued with a deployment of French Special Forces being sent to reinforce the SDF combating the remaining pockets of Islamic State resistance. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated to the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “You’ll see a re-energized effort. You’ll see increased operations on the Iraqi side of the border and the French just reinforced us in Syria with special forces here in the last two weeks. This is an ongoing fight right now.” He added that the United States is “not withdrawing.”
As a member of the ant-Islamic State coalition, France has provided military support in the region since 2014 when the conflict started. They have contributed vast amount of air support and military advisers to assist local national military elements working alongside the coalition in Iraq and Syria. French President Emmanuel Macron met with Kurdish delegates in northern Syria in March to discuss future military support. He declared that France was prepared to send forces to Manbij in an effort to reinforce the city’s defenses alongside American military forces in preparation for a possible Turkish military assault. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that such action would be viewed as an “invasion.”
The move by France comes as coalition forces re-engage the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor, Syria (southern Rojava). Much of the Syrian Democratic Forces that had traveled to bolster Afrin’s defense have returned to the region and are continuing to combat ISIS. French Special Forces in the past have provided valuable training to Kurdish ground forces in things such as basic infantry skills but on various weapon systems as well. Their sniper based observation teams provide coordinates for coalition airstrikes and conduct battle damage assessments.
Featured Image Courtesy of Spc. Kalie Frantz. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons