TOUGH-talking Bashar al-Assad has warned Kurdish fighters hunting down ISIS brutes in Syria they can’t count on America’s support in future battles.
And the Syrian president told the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the US “will not protect” them if they were ever attacked by Turkey.
President Bashar al-Assad warned the SDF the Americans would not be around forever[/caption]
The battle-hardened SDF fighters – which have long been backed by Washington – are on the brink of ousting ISIS from its final strongholds in eastern Syria.
But they now fear Turkey, which regards them as a terrorist group, will take advantage once President Trump pulls his troops out of the country.
Although Assad did not specifically mention the planned withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from northern Syria he said “no one should bet on protection from the Americans.”
He also hinted the Syrian army will return to the area after the American troop pullout.
“To those groups who are betting on the Americans, we say the Americans will not protect you… the Americans will put you in their pockets to be used as bargaining tools,” he said.
“Every inch of Syria will be liberated, and any intruder is an enemy.”
Assad spoke as the US said it will have to sever its military assistance to the SDF if it ever partners with Assad or Russia.
Every inch of Syria will be liberated, and any intruder is an enemy
President Bashar al-Assad
The remarks from Army Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, commander of the US-led coalition battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria, underscore the tough decisions now facing the SDF.
Syrian Kurdish leaders have sought talks with Assad’s state, hoping to safeguard their autonomous region after the withdrawal of US troops currently backing them.
They fear an attack by neighbouring Turkey, which has threatened to crush the Kurdish militia.
Ankara sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as indistinguishable from the Kurdish PKK movement that has waged an insurgency inside Turkey.
But LaCamera warned that US law prohibits cooperation with Russia as well as Assad’s military.
“We will continue to train and arm them as long as they remain our partners,” LaCamera said, praising their hard-won victories against ISIS militants.
When asked if that support would continue if they aligned themselves with Assad, LaCamera said: “No…when that happens then we will no longer be partners with them.”
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Trump’s surprise December decision to withdraw all of the more than 2,000 US troops from Syria has triggered deep concern among US allies about the risk of a resurgence of Islamic State.
With US-backing, the SDF has routed Islamic State and is on the verge of recapturing the final bits of its once sprawling territory.
But Islamic State still has thousands of fighters, who, now dispersed, are expected to turn to guerrilla-style hit-and-run attacks.
Members of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand together near Baghouz[/caption]
An SDF fighrer targets an ISIS stronghold with a rocket launcher in Deir Ezzor[/caption]
The SDF now fear an attack from Turkey[/caption]