The Pentagon on Monday acknowledged a pause in the war against Daesh a day earlier, blaming it on the SDF redirecting its militants from other fronts to Afrin, where Turkey is fighting against the YPG.

A Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army member is seen in Afrin, Syria on March 2, 2018.
A Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army member is seen in Afrin, Syria on March 2, 2018. ( Reuters )

After the Pentagon acknowledged an "operational pause" in Syria in the fight against Daesh, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced on Tuesday the redeployment of 1,700 militants from the front lines against Daesh to Afrin.

Turkish military forces have been running Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin in a bid to secure its southern border from YPG, an integral part of the US-backed SDF. The YPG is the Syrian extension of the PKK, which is recognised as a terror group by Turkey, US and the EU.

"We took the difficult decision to pull our forces out of Deir Ezzor province and battlefronts against Daesh to head to the Afrin battle," said Abu Omar al Idlibi of the SDF. 

On Monday, the Pentagon said Turkey's military operation to secure the Turkish-Syrian border from a US-backed militia in Syria had affected the fight against Daesh.

The United States and Turkey, while themselves allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have diverging interests in the Syrian civil war, with currently Washington focused on defeating Daesh and Ankara keen to prevent the YPG from gaining territory.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters the pause meant that some ground operations by the SDF, a US-backed umbrella group dominated by the YPG, had been temporarily put on hold.

Manning said air strikes by the US-led coalition fighting Daesh had not been affected, and that the SDF continues to hold territory taken back from the militant group.

Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, another Pentagon spokesman, said the US military had seen SDF militants leave the fight against Daesh.

"Some fighters operating within the SDF have decided to leave operations in the middle Euphrates river valley to fight elsewhere, possibly in Afrin," Galloway said.

In the meantime, Turkey's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy has repeated Turkey's call to the US to stop working with the YPG in Syria.

"We have clear expectations from the United States. We expect them to take back the arms delivered to PYD-YPG," he said.

Civilian deaths

Allegations have been made against Turkey over the deaths of civilians during the Afrin operation. However, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu denied the reports in a press conference on Tuesday in Berlin.

"In Afrin, we are battling YPG/PKK. Our operation is in line with international law and we are fulfilling our humanitarian responsibilities. So far no civilian has lost their lives, despite black propaganda aimed at us. The territorial integrity of Syria is very important for us," Cavusoglu said.

Turkey has repeatedly denied hitting civilians in its operation in Afrin in northwest Syria.

Previously Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted a spokesperson of the US Department of Defense claiming there were civilian casualties in Afrin, accusing him spreading fake news.

“Our army is paying utmost attention so that no harm comes to even a single civilian. That’s why our operation is a lengthy one. It would have already finished if we were not trying to distinguish civilians from terrorists,” he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies