AIN ISSA, SYRIA — Washington’s main Syrian ally in the fight against ISIS says the U.S. military will remain in northern Syria long after the jihadists are defeated, predicting enduring ties with the Kurdish-dominated region.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG, believes the United States has a “strategic interest” in staying on, SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters.
“They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) … and the U.S. administration,” Silo said.
The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS has deployed forces at several locations in northern Syria, including an airbase near the town of Kobani. It has supported the SDF with air strikes, artillery and special forces on the ground.
Asked about long-term strategy, Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the coalition, said there was “still a lot of fighting to do, even after ISIS has been defeated in Raqqa.”
ISIS remained in strongholds along the Euphrates River Valley, he added, in a reference to its stronghold in Deir al-Zor province southeast of Raqqa.
“Our mission … is to defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and to set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability,” Dillon said, without elaborating.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said in Washington, “The Department of Defense does not discuss timelines for future operations. However we remain committed to the destruction of ISIS and preventing its return.”
The SDF and YPG dominate a swathe of northern Syria where Kurdish-led autonomous administrations have emerged since the onset of the Syrian conflict in 2011.