A top military official in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), Mazloum Abdi, said that his forces are strategically patient and did not escalate with Turkey on the border, despite Turkey’s violation of the truce agreement.
Speaking in a virtual seminar held by the Washington-based Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, Abdi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), indicated that no escalation or penetration of the border with Turkey has taken place during the nine years of his forces’ control over north and east Syria, North Press Agency reported.
The Turkish forces however, have escalated targeting areas in North and East Syria starting from mid-august, killing and wounding dozens of civilians and SDF members amid frequent shelling on the countryside of Hasakah, Manbij and Ain Issa, causing partial displacement from some villages.
While Abdi noted the efforts made by the United States administration to pressurise the Turkish side to halt the escalation, he also emphasised that their military victory over the Islamic State (ISIS) still needed to be supported with political stability.
“We do not want the American forces to remain in Syria forever. Our determination to fight extremism will not be affected by the American presence or absence, especially since we started fighting ISIS before our partnership with the US, but the military victory we have achieved deserves to be consolidated with political stability, and our friends in the US can help in this regard,” he said.
Abdi added that any escalation in the region would ultimately benefit ISIS, where the activity of its sleeper cells is currently steadily increasing in the east of the country and on the Syrian-Iraqi border.
He also indicated that he considered improvements in the economic situation in northeast Syria to be inseparable from the fight against the ISIS.
Drawing attention to the impacts of US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Taliban’s rise to power, Abdi warned that it could trigger a surge in jihadist activities in Syria:
“The extremist groups of al-Qaeda and ISIS morally benefited from the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and feel strengthened by the Taliban’s victory. In Idlib, there were celebrations for days carried out by al-Qaeda, which considers the Taliban’s victory as a victory for itself too. And ISIS, with its sleeper cells in areas of northeast Syria started to send threats and messages to the local population which said that the organisation is returning and that the US withdrawal from Syria is imminent.”
The SDF is the main self-defence force in north and east Syria which succeeded in defeating ISIS with the logistics, intelligence and air support of the International Coalition led by the US. Turkey has been carrying out attacks against SDF since the defeat of ISIS, claiming that one of its components, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered by Turkey a terrorist organisation.