Coalition spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon speaks to Rudaw TV on Thursday.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – With coalition forces and their allies in Syria coming under fire in Deir ez-Zor and at the receiving end of threats out of Ankara, the spokesperson for the global alliance stressed that they have the right to defend themselves and will not hesitate to do so.
The events of Wednesday night show that “our stance is very clear that we will defend ourselves and our partners. If there’s any thoughts of doing this again in the future, I hope that they would think twice about doing that – whoever it may be,” Col. Ryan Dillon told Rudaw TV on Thursday.
He was speaking about coalition airstrikes on forces that had attacked a known SDF headquarters in Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria.
The United States estimates more than 100 pro-Syrian regime forces were killed, a military official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Dillon stressed, however, that their mission remains the war against ISIS. “We do not have a fight with pro-regime forces. Our fight is continued to focus on ISIS,” he said.
On Wednesday, Dillon was in Manbij with the commanding general of all coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk.
He described the trip as a “routine visit,” but acknowledged that it comes at a time when Turkey has directly threatened the coalition forces and their SDF allies in the area.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to “foil games along our borders, starting from Manbij.”
Coalition forces are stationed in the Manbij area to prevent clashes between Turkey and their proxies and the Kurdish-led forces.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has said that “American soldiers in YPG uniforms” could become targets.
Funk’s timely trip was an opportunity “for him to say to our troops and to media that were in the area that we always have the inherent right to defend ourselves against any threat, whether that be ISIS or anything else,” Dillon explained.
The general’s message for the soldiers stationed at the Manbij outpost was one of reassurance that the coalition is backing them, “despite some of the rhetoric and some of the talks that have been in the news lately,” Dillon added.
In Afrin, where Turkey’s military operation against the YPG has been underway for nearly three weeks, Dillon said the coalition is not conducting operations, but they are watching the situation closely to see how it could affect the war against ISIS.
The YPG-led SDF is fighting “every single day to defeat ISIS elements” in the Middle Euphrates River Valley of eastern Syria, Dillon said, noting that the terror group remains the biggest threat to the Middle East and the world.
“So, as anything that happens in Afrin distracts from the fight against ISIS, it is very much a concern to the coalition,” he said.