SDF to focus on liberation of Afrin, sleeper cells post-ISIS
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday said the group would focus on the liberation of Afrin and combating the Islamic State (ISIS) sleeper cells following the defeat of the extremist group, pro-Kurdish Kurdistan 24 news site reported.
The Turkish army seized Syria’s northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin in the March of last year, and the SDF is looking to return the town’s original inhabitants to their homes to end the demographic change in the region, it said.
The statements from the SDF arrive following U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration of victory against the group. The Kurdish group has formed the backbone of the Washington’s war on ISIS in the region.
A January attack by ISIS in the northeastern city of Manbij laid to rest U.S. claims of ISIS’ defeat in the region.
The SDF leadership emphasized that the ISIS is trapped in a small area in the Baghuz village and that the battle would end after they liberate prisoners and civilians from the location, the website said.
Head of SDF media center Mustafa Bali previously warned that ISIS as an ideology is not defeated yet, telling Kurdistan 24, “We, as the SDF, think that dealing with and finishing off the Islamic State militarily was the easy step, but now comes the more challenging phase.”
Thousands of people have fled ISIS-held territory since early December. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates 30,550 people of many different nationalities have fled, “including about 2,770” ISIS members who had hidden themselves among the civilian population.
The SDF also told the news site they are ready “to solve problems with the Turkish state through dialogue and mutual respect,” noting they are ready to protect their areas “in any case of aggression.”