IS will take advantage of a Turkish offensive in Syria, US Defense official says
Senior U.S. officials began announcing publicly their concerns that a Turkish military offensive in northern Syria will endanger U.S. forces in the region and have disastrous consequences in the fight against Islamic State, Voice of America reported.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month renewed threats of an incursion in northern Syria, to “clean up Tal Rifaat and Manbij" in an effort to create a 30km deep safe zone, a move that sparked a series of consultations between Washington and Ankara.
“We strongly oppose any Turkish operation into northern Syria and have made clear our objections to Turkey,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana Stroul told a forum in Washington on Wednesday.
“IS (Islamic State) is going to take advantage of that campaign,” she added.
Stroul and other U.S. officials said that a growing body of intelligence indicated ISIS is intent on launching operations to free 10,000 fighters held in makeshift prisons across northeastern Syria, guarded by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), VOA reported.
The SDF has been a close ally in the fight against IS but is seen by Turkey as an offshoot of PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party,) a Kurdish militant group that has been fighting against Turkey for four decades.
“IS views the detention facilities where its fighters are housed as the population to reconstitute its army,” Stroul said. “If there are military operations that would cause the SDF to focus on moving north to protect their communities from an air campaign or a ground campaign, there’s only so many SDF to go around.”
An attempt by IS in January to break 4,000 fighters out of the al-Sinaa prison in Hasakah failed, but only after the U.S.-backed SDF surged in 10,000 troops to quell the uprising, aided by U.S. jets, attack helicopters and ground forces, VOA said.