Pentagon: Turkish news misreported withdrawal of U.S. support for SDF

The United States will continue its support for its Kurdish allies in the fight against the extremist jihadist Islamic State, but will cut off individual groups which turn from the fight against ISIS to pursue other aims, the Pentagon has confirmed, after Turkish media implied a wholesale withdrawal of support.

Weaponry provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) by the United States is earmarked for the fight against the Islamic State and its use by individual units for any other purpose, including the defense of Kurdish forces in Afrin against Turkey, could lead to the United States cutting off equipment support, Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway of the U.S. Marine Corps told Ahval’s editor İlhan Tanır in an email on Tuesday.

The Turkish state media network Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday that the Kurdish forces would “lose U.S. support” if units moved on Afrin.

However, Rankine-Galloway confirmed that the United States’ Kurdish allies would continue to have U.S. support in the fight against the Islamic State. Rather, individual units would be subject to scrutiny and potentially have their equipment support revoked if they take part in actions not sanctioned by the United States.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, launched a military incursion on Jan. 20 into the northwest Syrian region of Afrin to clear the area of Kurdish forces it deems to be affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. These include the SDF, which is supplied with weaponry and training by the United States.

“We are reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-ISIS and stabilization efforts will allow to prevent ISIS from returning”, wrote Rankine-Galloway.

“We do not condone the use of coalition-provided weapons and equipment for any purpose other than to defeat ISIS. If we identify any group or individuals violating their agreement, we will investigate and, if appropriate, cut off equipment support.”

Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, pointed out that the United States had cut off support to the Martyrs of Islam brigade in July 2017, after that group switched from fighting the Islamic State to fighting the Assad regime. This was an example of the Department of Defence’s “policy to stop supporting vetted Syrian opposition groups who carry out operations other than fighting ISIS”.

 “The United States is committed to protecting our NATO ally Turkey, including supporting efforts to counter threats from the Kurdistan Workers' Party”, said Rankine-Galloway.

The local Kurdish partners that are supplied with U.S. training and weaponry are “aimed at preventing the potential outflow of fleeing ISIS terrorists as their physical presence in Syria nears its end and pending a longer-term settlement of the civil war in Syria to ensure that ISIS cannot escape or return”, according to the major.