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EXCLUSIVE: America's top ally in Syria warns ISIS is rising

Speaking through a translator, Mazloum stated that the new ISIS insurrection was authorized because the group had some freedom of movement in areas bordering the Syrian area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, including across the border in Iraq and places in Iraq. west of the Euphrates River, seemingly controlled by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from which the SDF remained independent.

The situation in Syria remains complex as long as the Assad regime, backed by Russia and Iran, is ready to seize much of the western side of the country from various rebel groups east of the Euphrates River, run by the Kurdish PSD, which operates completely independently. of the Assad regime, and backed by a US-led military coalition consisting mainly of European allies, largely retains control.

The SDF consists of approximately 35,000 personnel, including Kurdish and Arab fighters. Backed by thousands of US air strikes and military advisers, the group played a leading role in pushing ISIS out of Syrian cities and towns, a campaign in which ISIS lost its last territorial hold in March.

Asked if Trump's decision to reduce the number of US troops in Syria from a peak of nearly 3,000 to less than half of today's, which affected his ability to fight ISIS, Mazloum replied: "Of course "It affects us negatively."

"We and the coalition and the Americans, we were very effective," he said. He added that some of the other US troops in Syria are engaged in surveillance teams along the Syrian-Turkish border and therefore are less involved in the fight against ISIS debris.

Mazloum stated is the US having to fulfill its commitments to its group and the fight against ISIS. "If Americans are not perceived as fulfilling their commitments," he said, "it would be" not only harmful to us, but also harmful to Americans. "[1


Detention of ISIS fighters

One area of ​​particular concern to both the commander and US personnel is the ability of the Syrian Democratic Forces to continue to guard tens of thousands of detained ISIS fighters and family members. ISIS, including over 2000 foreign extermination ers from around 50 countries in makeshift camps and detention facilities.

"We still hold them in very difficult conditions," Mazloum says, adding that SDF has "very limited capacity."

The SDF also has a security presence in Al Hol's internally displaced camp, which swelled to about 70,000 people after the collapse of the ISIS caliph.

Mazlum called the Al Hall camp a "delayed bomb", saying that they had received inadequate assistance from the international community to deal with the situation and that some countries had agreed to repatriate their citizens but were not followed.

"I describe it as a blueprint for future extremism in these camps and in these detention facilities. Considering these people to include detainees is a critical strategic issue in my opinion," Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford told audience in Washington on Thursday.

The Trump administration has long sought to repatriate its citizens who went to Syria to fight for ISIS and pursue them, but have limited success, and their prolonged detention in Syria has raised concerns.

"This is a bankruptcy situation," Esper said this week while traveling in the UK when asked about the foreign fighter issue.

"Our view was that they needed to be repatriated and considered, properly dealt with. So that's the message, otherwise there is a risk to the region, right? I mean how long can we – they – to guard these camps from other people, and you're talking about a few thousand, a few thousand fighters in total, but there are just over 2,000 foreign fighters, many of whom come from Europe, "Esper added.

Mazlum stated that he either wanted to see states repatriate their citizens, or create an international court in northeastern Syria that could prosecute fighters.

ISIS's significant presence in the region

Senior US officials acknowledged that ISIS remains a threat, but stressed that the terrorist group is nowhere near as powerful as a few years ago when it controlled large parts from Iraq and Syria and sought to conduct foreign operations around the world.

"I think it's fair to say that they still have a significant presence in Iraq and Syria. They are certainly nowhere near as strong as they were in 2017 and 2018, so they have been significantly worsened, and they continue to maintain the ability to conduct rebel, guerrilla operations, and that's what they see today, "Dunford said Thursday.

Mazloum stated that he would like to see the United States help to create policy solutions for ISIS-exempt areas, as well as provide more military support for the SDF, including financial support and accessories.

Dunford also said that the SDF would require continued support from the US and the coalition, saying: "I believe that in the current environment, the Syrian Democratic Forces … continue to need the support of the coalition to be effective in fighting the residual the presence of ISIS, but as an important training for the local forces to secure the territory that had previously been cleared by ISIS, so it is yet to work, and we believe that approximately 50-60,000 local security forces will need to be trained to keep this on the ground, and we're probably around 50% of the way. "

Last week, a US-led coalition said that over the past four months, its" SDF partners had detained more than 225 Daesh fighters "in Syria, using the Arabic name for ISIS. The coalition called the SDF "capable and reliable partners who have suffered thousands of casualties in the fight against Daesh," adding that they "maintain stability and prevent Daesh from recurring" in northeastern Syria.

Turkish threat [19659024] But the most worrying of Mazlum seems to be the prospect of a military offensive in northeast Syria, something that has been repeatedly threatened by Turkish President Recep Erdogan and has also raised concern among US officials.

"Is there any possibility – you heard the political rhetoric – that Turkey could move to northeastern Syria? There is such an opportunity. I do not believe this would be of benefit to our mutual interests and I think that is why we are so focused on finding an acceptable way of dealing with Turkey's problems while maintaining the continuity of the campaign against ISIS in northeast Syria, "Dunford said on Thursday.

The US and Turkey are working on Initiative S to designate a "security mechanism" and that Turkey calls a safe zone along the Turkish border in northeast Syria, which Turkey believes is needed to stop PKK terrorists in Syria from attacking Turkey.

As part of the initiative, US and Turkey military units established a joint operations center and conducted a series of helicopter reconnaissance flights over the area. Joint ground patrols are expected to begin shortly.

The Turkish government sees the PKK as inherently related to the Kurdish elements of the SDF, something Mazloum categorically denies, saying that "there is no link between the SDF and the PKK" and that the SDF is not part of the fight against Turkey.

regards the SDF as separate from the PKK, but acknowledges Turkey's security concerns in northeastern Syria and considers the PKK a terrorist group.

Mazloum says Turkish invasion threats have helped ISIS sleeping cells in northeastern Syria, which he says will try to use any attack on the SDF. But he says he trusts the US to reach an agreement with Turkey to avoid such a conflict, saying that it is "going well" with regard to the safe zone.

Mazlum stated that his forces had agreed to a safe zone along the Turkish border an average of 5 kilometers in depth, with some stretches extending up to 12 kilometers (about 7 1/2 miles).

"We have shown great flexibility on our part," he said, adding that he was "confident that Americans would respond to that flexibility" while saying that Turkey was making "provocative statements every day. This complicates the process. "

US Central Command, which oversees US forces in the Middle East, released images of what it says are SDF units removing fortifications from areas that fall into the safe zone.

But if the deal with Turkey collapses and the United States should abandon Syria, Mazloum made it clear that the SDF would sooner reach an agreement with the Assad and Russi regime.

He called a similar deal with the regime and Moscow. " but he said it was a "less bad decision."

Asked if he could send a message to Trump or Congressional leaders, Mazlum said he would ask them to support "Kurdish rights within Syria", recognizing their role in the fight against ISIS.

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