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US warns Turkish ground operation in Syria would ‘jeopardize’ gains against IS

Pentagon says offensive by Turkey ‘would destabilize the region,’ urges restraint; adds that US forces have reduced joint patrols with SDF

Fighters affiliated with the Turkish-backed "Syrian National Army" fire rounds while standing above a dirt barrier at a position near Azaz in the rebel-held north of the Aleppo province, opposite the town of Menagh, along the frontlines with areas under control by Syrian government forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), on November 29, 2022. (Aaref Watad/AFP)
Fighters affiliated with the Turkish-backed "Syrian National Army" fire rounds while standing above a dirt barrier at a position near Azaz in the rebel-held north of the Aleppo province, opposite the town of Menagh, along the frontlines with areas under control by Syrian government forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), on November 29, 2022. (Aaref Watad/AFP)

WASHINGTON — A Turkish ground operation in Syria would “severely jeopardize” gains made in the war against the Islamic State jihadist group, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, urging restraint.

Turkey has carried out airstrikes against semi-autonomous Kurdish zones in Syria and Iraq since a deadly Istanbul bombing it blames on Kurdish groups, and has threatened to launch an operation on the ground in Syria.

The US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), now the Kurds’ de facto army in northeast Syria, have played a key role in dislodging IS fighters from the territory they seized in the country.

“The continued conflict, especially a ground invasion, would severely jeopardize the hard-fought gains that the world has achieved against ISIS and would destabilize the region,” Pentagon press secretary Brig.-Gen. Pat Ryder told journalists, using an acronym for IS.

“We… remain concerned about a potential Turkish ground operation in Syria, and again would urge restraint,” he said, while also acknowledging Ankara’s security concerns.

Ryder said US forces have reduced the number of joint patrols with the SDF, but have not redeployed.

“We have reduced the number of patrols because… we do these partnering with the SDF, and so they have reduced the number of patrols that they’re doing,” he said.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched several incursions against Kurdish forces in northern Syria that have allowed it to control areas along the border.

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