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US Says Wants to Keep Helping SDF in ISIS Fight as Putin Invites Erdogan to Russia

US Says Wants to Keep Helping SDF in ISIS Fight as Putin Invites Erdogan to Russia

Wednesday, 16 October, 2019 - 06:30
A fighter of the Syrian Democratic Forces gestures in the village of Baghouz, Deir Ezzor province, Syria, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

Washington wants to maintain support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their fight against ISIS militants despite US troops withdrawing from northern Syria, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

"There'll be ongoing conversations on what kind of capabilities we can help bring to them to continue the fight within Syria," the Pentagon official said.

"We continue to be committed to the de-ISIS campaign and we want to figure out how we can continue working with the SDF.

"They have a very strong robust relationship with the US military... and we think we can preserve that relationship."

The SDF were the main ground partner in the US-led campaign against ISIS, and US President Donald Trump has faced a firestorm of criticism for abandoning a loyal ally.

The SDF lost 11,000 fighters in the campaign against ISIS before finally overrunning the group's rule in March.

The US is to withdraw more than 1,000 troops from northern Syria, keeping only a residual contingent of around 150 at the Al-Tanf base near the southeastern borders with Jordan and Iraq.

Trump announced the pullback last week, a move widely interpreted as green-lighting a long-planned Turkish invasion of northern Syria.

As Turkish forces advanced, Syria on Tuesday dispatched more forces to beat back the offensive, while Russia deployed patrols to prevent clashes between the two sides.

European governments are worried the chaos could trigger mass breakouts by thousands of ISIS militants detained by Kurdish forces, and a broader resurgence of the extremist movement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the conflict in Syria in a phone call with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and invited the Turkish leader to soon visit Russia, the Kremlin said late Tuesday.

Putin invited Erdogan "for a working visit in the coming days. The invitation was accepted," Putin's office said in a statement.

It said the two leaders emphasized "the need to prevent confrontations between units of the Turkish army and Syrian armed forces".

The call was initiated by Turkey, the Kremlin said.

Putin raised concerns in the call about "terrorists attempting to break free and infiltrate neighboring countries" amid Ankara's offensive against the Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.

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