NATO ally Turkey is attacking a key US partner force in Syria, and it's upending joint operations against ISIS

NATO ally Turkey is attacking a key US partner force in Syria, and it's upending joint operations against ISIS
A fighter of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands atop a Humvee during a joint military exercise with forces of the US-led "Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve" coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group in the countryside of the town of al-Malikiya (Derik in Kurdish) in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on September 7, 2022.Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images
  • NATO ally Turkey has been attacking US-backed forces in Syria fighting against ISIS.
  • Under attack, the Syrian Democratic Forces said they have stopped counter-terrorism efforts.

US forces have stopped joint operations with its partners in Syria against the Islamic State, US Central Command said Friday, in a blow to the ongoing fight against the terror group.

Following a deadly terror attack last month, NATO ally Turkey has targeted the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in a series of attacks. In response, the SDF, which Washington supports and works closely with in the fight against ISIS, announced that it has paused its counter-terrorism efforts.

"As a result of the SDF's pause on all counter-ISIS operations, CENTCOM forces have also paused all partnered operations against ISIS in Syria," Col. Joe Buccino, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said in a statement shared with Insider. "The SDF continues to conduct patrols and maintain security at the al-Hol displaced persons camp and the detention facilities prisons."

Buccino added that "ISIS remains a threat to regional security and stability. We remain committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS and look forward to the resumption of operations against ISIS in the future."

Reuters first reported Friday the news that the SDF had stopped its joint operations with the US and its allies because of the recent Turkish campaign. Turkey's bombardment of the SDF began after a deadly explosion rocked Istanbul last month. Ankara blamed the fatal blast on Kurdish groups, and Turkey began targeting SDF territorial holdings — even threatening a possible ground invasion.


US officials earlier this week confirmed that the country's military had reduced the number of joint patrols it conducts with the SDF, while also urging a deescalation in tensions. Prior to CENTCOM's announcement on the reduced patrols, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters during a Thursday briefing that the US is focused on working with the SDF in its campaign to defeat ISIS.

"Our focus is on the defeat-ISIS mission. And we certainly value our very strong, enduring, and long alliance with Turkey. And we also value the partnership that we've shared with the SDF since the beginning of the counter-ISIS campaign, now known as the defeat-ISIS mission," Ryder said Thursday.

"When you look at what the SDF did, and continues to do in terms of preventing the reconstitution of, again, a very dangerous terrorist group, ISIS," he continued, "it is something that we should all be very thankful for. And we look forward to continuing to work with them in that regard."

On Wednesday, CENTCOM revealed that local Syrian forces recently carried out a raid and killed the leader of ISIS, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. His predecessors were both taken off the battlefield during separate raids conducted by US special operations forces.