The United States will continue ‘anti-ISIS efforts’ and will help the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) protect oil wells in the region, said Commander Frank McKenzie, commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM).
Commander McKenzie met with General Mazloum Kobani, commander of the Kurdish-led SDF, at a military base in eastern Syria on Jan. 25, the Associated Press reported.
Kobani reportedly asked McKenzie for reassurance that the U.S. would continue their support of SDF militants, which McKenzie returned with the promise of continued anti-ISIS efforts and collaboration in protecting oil wells.
“I don’t know how long we will be here”
“He knows, and I agree, that we’re not going to be here for 100 years. I frankly don’t know how long we’re going to be here and I have no instructions other than to continue to work with our partner here,” McKenzie said.
U.S.-SDF relations were brought to a screeching halt last October when U.S. President Donald Trump made an abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, leaving their Kurdish allies of five years to fend for themselves against Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring.
Ankara launched an offensive in northern Syria on Oct. 9 of last year against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the leading group in the SDF and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is a designated terrorist organization in Turkey, in the U.S and EU.
After President Trump’s initial declaration that U.S. troops would be removed from Syria, his advisers later convinced him to keep a scaled-back force in the country to protect Kurdish-controlled oil fields and facilities from falling into ISIS hands.
During his unannounced visit to Syria on Saturday, McKenzie toured five military bases, noting that anti-ISIS operations have increased again following U.S.-Iran tensions, and that three or four operations take place every week.
McKenzie added that Iranian proxy forces in Syria could pose a threat to the U.S, saying: “You always worry about their ability to command and control their proxy elements which they have equipped very well.”