Anti-ISIS operations in Syria face arduous task - Jerusalem Post

The Coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in  eastern Syria is facing an array of challenges that include attempting to defeat the extremist group’s remnants and train the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) while dealing with the distraction caused by Turkey’s threats in the region, the Jerusalem Post wrote. 

Washington has welcomed Denmark’s decision on Friday to deploy military personnel to Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the article said, noting that the move arrives at a time when the Coalition is trying to get Western countries to commit forces to the increasingly complex challenges in eastern Syria. 

Around 50-60,000 local security forces are needed to deal with the residual ISIS presence, a task that the coalition has accomplished by about 50 percent, the article quoted U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford, as saying. 

Plans to abolish any remnants of ISIS, however, must consider Ankara’s security concerns along its southeastern border.

Turkey has long considered the SDF, the primary local militia in the U.S.-led coalition ISIS, to be a terrorist organisation and the Syrian wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in conflict with the country for over three decades. Ankara has repeatedly threatened to launch a military operation targeting areas held by the SDF.

‘’The idea that Turkey would like to do another Afrin-style operation in eastern Syria is a real fear for those on the ground,’’ the article said, adding that Ankara is encouraging populism among the refugees and Syrian rebel groups Turkey works with through its talks of repatriating 1,000,000 Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 ISIS fighters are held in eastern Syria with no mechanism to prosecute them in eastern Syria. 

Citing the example of Al-Hol camp, where there are more than 70,000 mostly women and children, of which 45,000 are thought to be ISIS supporters, the Jerusalem Post article said a new kind of ISIS ‘caliphate’ is emerging therein.  

The United States is training the SDF and other layers of forces, including local forces that may serve along the border with Turkey to reduce Ankara’s concerns, it said.

Questions are looming, however, about just how long the United States will remain uncertain as to what might come next in Syria, where the detainee threats, Turkey’s threats to launch an operation and the ISIS sleeper cells remain on the agenda, it concluded.