On 10 September, General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, paid a special visit to North East Syria.
General McKenzie held a closed meeting with Mazloum Abdi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the US stance regarding the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and the impacts of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan on the region.
The cooperation and support of the US with the SDF will continue, McKenzie told Abdi, according to a source who spoke to Medya News on condition of anonymity.
During the meeting, McKenzie said that the SDF and the Afghan army were in no way alike as the SDF has organised itself effectively and is able to resist any form of attack, the sources told Medya News.
The US General expressed his view that the political structure and environment in North and East Syria also has its own self organisation and dynamics which could not be evaluated in the same context as Afghanistan.
US forces to stay in NE Syria as ISIS remains a threat
It was strongly conveyed in the ‘behind doors’ meeting that the US is determined to stay in NE Syria to continue the successful partnership between the US forces and SDF in the fight against ISIS as ISIS remains a real threat and danger.
The commanders shared information that ISIS is still very active in Iraq and Syria, especially in the desserts around Deir Ezzor, where they are reported to be recruiting orphaned children into their ranks.
It was also conveyed that US forces will continue to protect the oil fields in NE Syria so as they do not fall into the hands of ISIS who could use the oil for revenue.
It was also clearly stated that the US will also support with reconstruction efforts and are fully engaged with a number of projects already, with more planned.
Assurance to support AANES representation
The US delegation also wanted to re-assure the SDF commander, General Abdi that the US will be doing everything they can to make sure that the AANES will be represented in any future talks regarding the future of Syria.
The US began its military partnership with the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) under President Obama during the siege of Kobane by ISIS in 2014.
They worked providing close air support to Kurdish forces to repel ISIS and then, with the newly reorganised and renamed Syrian Democratic Forces, acted to remove ISIS from its Raqqa stronghold, and worked together with Kurdish led forces of the SDF to the eventual military defeat of ISIS in the village of Baghuz, Deir Ezzor.
However, in October 2019, the then US President Donald Trump, by withdrawing US troops, had controversially opened the way for Turkey to launch new military operations in North Syria, in what many political commentators viewed as an ‘abandonment’ of the very allied forces it had worked with to militarily defeat ISIS in areas including Kobane, Manbij, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
The New Yorker had reported at the time that “the House of Representatives voted 354–60 to condemn the pullout. On the Senate floor, Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, rebuked the President for leaving ‘a bloodstain on the annals of American history.’”
Under the new US administration of President Biden however, the US while officially stating that it is ‘reviewing’ the situation, with around 900 US soldiers still based in North East Syria, it seems increasingly clear that the US administration is not likely to abandon their partners in the fight against ISIS anytime soon.