YPG members attend a funeral for fighters of the SDF killed in combat with ISIS in Deir ez-Zor last week. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish forces in Syria are not giving up on the war against ISIS, despite the redeployment of hundreds of SDF troops from the frontlines with the terror group in eastern Syria to defend Afrin on the opposite side of the country.
The armed Kurdish forces, YPG and YPJ, have been “the only force [that] encountered ISIS effectively so far, and [is] continuing to fight ISIS in multiple fronts. As the world [is] letting ISIS gain power again, our fight against ISIS continues in Deir al-Zor and Afrin,” the YPG tweeted early Friday morning.
The YPG are the dominant force with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), key international allies in the war against ISIS on the ground in Syria.
Earlier this week, 1,700 fighters from the SDF were redeployed from the ISIS front in Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria, to help defend Afrin facing a military onslaught by Turkey.
That decision was made “at a time of international silence in the face of the barbarism of the Turks against civilians,” Abu Ali Bard, general commander of the Revolutionary Forces (Jaysh al-Thuwar), a militia fighting under the SDF banner, told ANHA news on Thursday.
This was not the first batch of fighters sent to Afrin, he added, noting that they will send more, if need be.
The Kurds’ international allies have expressed concern about the shift of focus away from ISIS.
“We would like to see ISIS defeated once and for all. The best way to do that is to stay focused on ISIS,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a press briefing on Thursday, while stressing that the SDF is a “valuable partner” without whom success against ISIS would not have been possible.
Four “high value” ISIS leaders have been “eliminated” recently, coalition spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon said on Thursday, stressing that pressure must be kept on the group.
“Despite crushing the so-called caliphate and exposing Daesh [ISIS] ideology for the lie it is, we mustn’t let up in our pursuit of these apocalyptic terrorists,” he said in London, AFP reported.
In Syria, the SDF is combatting ISIS in its remaining territory in eastern Deir ez-Zor province and the Middle Euphrates River Valley. Working with the coalition, they are also “pursuing and targeting foreign terrorist fighters attempting to escape through neighbouring countries,” explained Dillon.
Turkey launched its Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on January 20 with the stated aim of clearing “terrorists” from its borders. Ankara alleges the YPG and YPJ and the ruling PYD are branches of the PKK, a named terror organization. The Kurdish groups deny the charge.
Turkey on Thursday took control of a fifth town
The YPG slammed what they described as global silence on the military offensive. “This people will forgive, but will never forget the invaders and their crime partners.”