US Central Command: Operations against ISIS will escalate in the coming days

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — About 500 US troops in eastern Syria are expected to resume operations against Islamic State in the coming days and weeks, the commander of US Central Command, General Kenneth Mackenzie, said on Saturday.

ISIS has lost almost all of its territory in Syria and US forces killed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month, but the group, which once controlled a third of Syria and neighboring Iraq, remains a threat.

The administration of US President Donald Trump shocked US allies in December when it said Washington would withdraw all its troops from Syria.

But it later said it had decided to retain a force in the northeastern part of the country and would focus on preventing the Islamic State from regrouping and attacking its oil fields.

“Now I have about 500 American personnel in general east of the Euphrates River and east from Deir Ezzor to Hasakah, in the northeast to the far northeast of Syria,” Mackenzie told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Security Dialogue summit in Bahrain.

“Our intention is to remain in this situation and work with our SDF partners to continue our operations against ISIS until the end of the Euphrates valley where these targets are located.”

Turkey began and then halted an offensive against the YPG, the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that helped Washington defeat the Islamic State. Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization with links to PKK militants operating in Turkish territory.

Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said last week it was also deploying more Russian military police in northeastern Syria, setting up field hospitals for civilians, distributing humanitarian aid and rebuilding infrastructure.

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