US Army to Fight Qaeda in Syria even after ISIS Defeat
Col. John Thomas, spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM), said that the international coalition forces would remain in Syria to support the operations of the Arab-Kurdish “Syrian Democratic Forces” until the conclusion of negotiations on a political solution in Geneva.
He added that the US forces would continue to fight terrorist organizations close to “al- Qaeda” in Syria, including al-Nusra Front, “regardless of ISIS presence.”
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in London, Col. Thomas reviewed the military operations overseen or conducted by the US Central Command in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
He explained that the US was not involved in any way in the civil war in Yemen, adding that his country had three missions there: “The first is to fight Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; the second to combat the Yemeni ISIS, the fighters of which are estimated to be hundreds, mostly Yemenis; and the third task is to support Saudi Arabia in protecting its borders, including protecting it from missiles fired at Saudi cities.”
“We have a small team in Riyadh that supports the Saudis in protecting their borders through the exchange of intelligence information,” Thomas said.
Thomas noted in his talk about the raids carried out by US forces in Yemen, that they were executed in coordination with the Yemeni legitimate authorities, stressing that President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi was notified of all moves.
On the Syrian front, Thomas emphasized that despite the contribution of Russia and Bashar Assad’s regime, the victory over ISIS was mainly the achievement of the Syrian Democratic Forces and the international alliance.
The spokesman said the US would remain in Syria to support the Syrian Democratic Forces until the end of the Geneva talks.
“We continue to train the Syrian security forces in al-Raqqa, as we did in Manbaj, as well as clearing areas, that were controlled by ISIS, from bombs, mines and others,” he said, pointing out that the return of hundreds of thousands of residents to their land and the reconstruction process depend on the establishment of security.
As for the terrorist threat posed by al-Nusra Front, the CENTCOM spokesman stressed the need to distinguish between the mission of the international coalition against ISIS and that of the United States, saying that the US would pursue Qaeda and its affiliated organizations “regardless of the presence of ISIS”.