Offensive operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carried out by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been paused since Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” into Syria’s Afrin district started, U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson Eric Pahon has said.
“The SDF is currently in a pause, so it is in a defensive position. They have stopped moving forward. They are in the process of protecting themselves, protecting all of the area that they have already freed,” Pahon told daily Hürriyet on April 23.
“Offensive ground operations have not continued … They have not been able to move forward because of distractions elsewhere in the country. Our air strikes still continue. We are able to identify the targets, we are able to provide air support from aircrafts. But now the SDF are re-grouping a little bit … And hopefully we are able to reinforce those forces that are there enough so that they can continue pushing against ISIL and get rid of these last small elements,” he added.
Another Pentagon spokesperson, Col. Robert Manning, has also Turkey’s offensive in Afrin had distracted the attention of the SDF, dominated by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), from the fight against ISIL.
“The issue that took place in Afrin was a distraction obviously … Things were not at the pace we wanted but we are getting back to a point where we posture to defeat ISIL. We never lost that momentum but we are getting back to a point where our renewed focus is on ISIL,” Manning said in a weekly press briefing on April 23.
“Our focus remains on ISIL and reinforcing the positions that we have. We are going to continue to destroy ISIL where they are and we remain postured to defeat ISIL,” he added.
Turkey started the operation in the Afrin district on Jan. 20 to remove YPG militants from the area. The Turkish military and elements of the Free Syrian Amy (FSA) took full control of the city center on March 18 as the YPG militants retreated.