EXCLUSIVE – A Kurdish general told Fox News NATO ally Turkey plans to carry out a massive ground invasion in Syria, targeting the very Kurdish groups that the US military has partnered with and relied on to fight ISIS in northeastern Syria.
The attack could endanger nearly 1,000 US troops stationed in Syria.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, the top general of the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, said his forces would no longer be able to help the U.S. fight ISIS because they face Turkish attacks.
“We did not freeze the joint actions against ISIS together with the international coalition on purpose,” General Mazloum said through an interpreter. “But as I said, we had to stop this action as we go, because we are under enormous stress of a possible Turkish incursion into our territories.”
Turkish mortars, airstrikes and drones began targeting Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq in the wake of a November 13 terrorist bombing in Istanbul, which Turkey blamed on Kurdish groups.
General Mazloum said the bomber was from ISIS and condemned the attack. He warned that Turkey is using it as a pretext to ethnically cleanse the Kurds. Turkish warplanes struck a military base the US military shares with these Kurdish fighters outside Qamishli about 30 miles from Turkey’s border.
The US has relied on the SDF to fight ISIS and for intelligence to target ISIS leaders such as Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.
In a strongly worded statement Wednesday, the Pentagon said it is “deeply concerned” by the escalation, which threatens efforts to defeat ISIS and endangers the lives of U.S. personnel working in Syria with local partners to defeat the terror group.
“Immediate de-escalation is necessary to maintain focus on the defeat-ISIS mission and ensure the safety and security of personnel on the ground committed to the defeat-ISIS mission,” said Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder, Pentagon press secretary. Fox News in a statement.
“The recent airstrikes in Syria directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel working in Syria with local partners to defeat ISIS and maintain the custody of more than ten thousand ISIS prisoners.”
There are now about 900 US troops on the ground in Syria, which does not have the Kurdish partners in the SDF to control ISIS.
US forces were 300 yards from the SDF base in Hasakah, Syria, at the time of the Turkish airstrike on Tuesday.
General Mazloum called on the American people and the American government to stand up for the Kurds.
“I want the American people to show the same position they showed back in 2019 when we were again under stress from the Turks,” he said. “We are again now threatened with being ethnically cleansed here by the Turks. And I am asking the government and the people of the United States to stand up for their Kurdish friends here.”