The United States will have to sever its military assistance to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling Daesh group if the fighters partner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or Russia, a senior U.S. general said on Sunday; Reuters reported.
The remarks by Army Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, who is the commander of the U.S.-led coalition battling Daesh (Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria, underscore the tough decisions facing the SDF as the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Syria.
Syrian Kurdish leaders have sought talks with Assad’s state, hoping to safeguard their autonomous region after the withdrawal of U.S. troops currently backing them.
They fear an attack by neighboring Turkey, which has threatened to crush the Kurdish YPG militia. Ankara sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as indistinguishable from the Kurdish PKK movement that has waged an insurgency inside Turkey.
But LaCamera warned that U.S. law prohibits cooperation with Russia as well as Assad’s military.
“We will continue to train and arm them as long as they remain our partners,” LaCamera said, praising their hard-won victories against Islamic State militants.
When asked if that support would continue if they aligned themselves with Assad, LaCamera said: “No.” “Once that relationship is severed, because they go back to the regime, which we don’t have a relationship with, (or) the Russians ... when that happens then we will no longer be partners with them,” LaCamera told a small group of reporters.
President Donald Trump’s surprise December decision to withdraw all of the more than 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria has triggered deep concern among U.S. allies about the risk of a resurgence of Islamic State.
With U.S.-backing, the SDF has routed Daesh and is on the verge of recapturing the final bits of its once sprawling territory. But Islamic State still has thousands of fighters, who, now dispersed, are expected to turn to guerrilla-style hit-and-run attacks.