SDF Commander: No Withdrawal of US Forces from Syria

US armored vehicles are seen in Qamishli, Syria on Thursday. (Reuters)
US armored vehicles are seen in Qamishli, Syria on Thursday. (Reuters)
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SDF Commander: No Withdrawal of US Forces from Syria

US armored vehicles are seen in Qamishli, Syria on Thursday. (Reuters)
US armored vehicles are seen in Qamishli, Syria on Thursday. (Reuters)

The US provided guarantees to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that Türkiye would not use the F-16 aircraft, which Washington had agreed to sell to Ankara, against its forces, revealed SDF commander Mazloum Abdi.

Abdi held a press conference at the office of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) in Washington with US and Arab media. It was his first meeting with the press since the outbreak of the war in Gaza on Oct. 7.

Abdi explained that the pace of Turkish attacks and targets had increased recently to include infrastructure and basic facilities in northeastern Syria, not just SDF combat centers and positions.

He added that these attacks cost the SDF half of their annual budget.

Assurances

In response to a question from Asharq Al-Awsat, Abdi confirmed that he had received firm assurances from officials in Washington that the withdrawal of US forces from Syria was not on the table.

He also denied that he had received advice from Washington to open communication channels with the Syrian regime to ensure protection for his forces if US troops are withdrawn.

Moreover, he deemed the regime’s failure to condemn the Turkish attack as a demonstration “of the relationship we have with the regime.” He stressed that there are no communications with Damascus and “no one has advised us to contact it.”

Iraq and Syria

Baghdad and Washington recently kicked off talks on the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Abdi said there were no fears that the discussions would impact US forces deployed in Syria.

The US is the one who ultimately decides the nature and future of its presence in Iraq, he added, noting that the nature of the deployment of the international forces in Syria was different than that of the Americans in Iraq.

He warned that the withdrawal of US forces from Syria would lead to chaos in the region, especially since ISIS terrorists are still active in the area.

He also added that the SDF was coming under pressure, which was affecting its ability to guard prisons holding ISIS detainees, not ruling out the possibility of future jailbreaks as had happened in the past.

Response to Iranian militias

Abdi acknowledged that the war on Gaza has created challenges to the SDF in its fight against ISIS.

He warned that Türkiye, Iran and the Damascus regime were exploiting the unrest.

In addition, he said that along with attacks from Türkiye, the SDF now has to contend with attacks by Iranian militias. These militias don’t differentiate between the SDF and coalition forces, he remarked, revealing that his forces were weighing their response to them.

Media leaks

The press conference was attended by former US Congressman and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, head of the SDC office in Washington Sinam Mohammad, and SDC communications officer Bassam Saqr.

Royce revealed that the media leaks about the withdrawal of the forces from Syria came from the extreme right-wing members of Congress.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that hard-right Republican Matthew Gates had been vocal about the withdrawal and his comments were widely circulated in the media.

Royce assured that an overwhelming majority in the Senate was against the pullout.

The Biden administration is not thinking about this, especially in this election year, asserted Royce, adding that it would not take such a step amid the escalation from Iran and its militias in the region.



Israel Bombs Gaza after US Criticizes High Civilian Toll

Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed
Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed
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Israel Bombs Gaza after US Criticizes High Civilian Toll

Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed
Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed

Israel renewed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip Tuesday, after the United States renewed its criticism of its ally over the high civilian casualty toll of the war.

Residents told AFP of Israeli warplanes striking central Gaza and artillery fire hitting the territory's south, while medics said they pulled multiple bodies from the rubble of the latest bombardment.

Hours earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told two top Israeli officials that casualties among Palestinian civilians "still remain unacceptably high".

"We continue to see far too many civilians killed in this conflict," spokesman Matthew Miller said after Blinken meth Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Washington has been pushing for a truce between Israel and Hamas.

But Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Sunday that the group was pulling out of indirect talks for a deal in protest at recent Israeli "massacres", including a massive strike on Sunday that the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said killed at least 92 people.

Haniyeh said Hamas stood ready to return to the indirect talks once Israel "demonstrates seriousness in reaching a ceasefire agreement and a prisoner exchange deal".

After the latest deadly strikes, medics from the Palestinian Red Crescent said they recovered four bodies from a house outside the southern city of Khan Yunis and another from Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza.

The Israeli military said that over the previous 24 hours its air force struck "approximately 40 terror targets" in Gaza. They included "sniping posts, observation posts, Hamas military structures, terror infrastructure, and buildings rigged with explosives".

It said its troops were also continuing targeted raids in the far-southern city of Rafah and in the central Gaza Strip.