US says it wants to keep helping Kurds in fight against Islamic State
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US says it wants to keep helping Kurds in fight against Islamic State

Pentagon official: ‘There’ll be ongoing conversations’ about how to support Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), despite US withdrawing troops from northern Syria

In this file photo taken on October 6, 2019, a US soldier sits atop an armored vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats next to a base for the US-led international coalition on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border (AFP)
In this file photo taken on October 6, 2019, a US soldier sits atop an armored vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats next to a base for the US-led international coalition on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border (AFP)

WASHINGTON — The United States wants to maintain support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their fight against Islamic State militants despite US troops withdrawing from northern Syria, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The SDF were the main ground partner in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group, and US President Donald Trump has faced a firestorm of criticism for abandoning a loyal ally.

“There’ll be ongoing conversations on what kind of capabilities we can help bring to them to continue the fight within Syria,” the Pentagon official said, requesting anonymity.

“We continue to be committed to the de-ISIS campaign and we want to figure out how we can continue working with the SDF.

“They have a very strong robust relationship with the US military… and we think we can preserve that relationship.”

The US is to withdraw more than 1,000 troops from northern Syria, keeping only a residual contingent of around 150 at the Al-Tanf base near the southeastern borders with Jordan and Iraq.

The US military outpost al-Tanf in southern Syria, October 22, 2018. (AP/Lolita Baldor)

Trump announced the pullback last week, a move widely interpreted as green-lighting a long-planned Turkish invasion of northern Syria.

As Turkish forces advanced, Syria on Tuesday dispatched more forces to beat back the offensive, while Russia deployed patrols to prevent clashes between the two sides.

European governments are worried the chaos could trigger mass breakouts by thousands of IS fighters detained by Kurdish forces, and a broader resurgence of the jihadist movement.

The SDF lost 11,000 fighters in the campaign against IS before finally overrunning the group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” in March.

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