Joint U.S.-Kurdish forces have resumed significant military operations against ISIS in northern Syria, The New York Times reported Monday.
“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters in Bahrain over the weekend.
The amping up of military force in the region comes after President Trump called the withdrawal of remaining U.S. troops near Syria’s northeastern border at the beginning of October.
The move prompted strong bipartisan backlash, as many viewed the withdrawal as a betrayal of Kurdish forces, who have been critical allies for the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Without U.S. troops occupying the region, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who views Kurdish forces as hostile, subsequently launched a massive military offensive into Syria.
While Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were able to broker a cease-fire between the sides, the Kurds were forced to vacate the region, allowing Erdoğan to create a 20-mile “safe zone.”
Later in the month, Trump ordered troops from Iraq to move into eastern Syria to protect the region’s oil fields from ISIS.
The restart also follows an Oct. 26 special forces operation that resulted in the death of ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Another catalyst for the mobilization of the joint forces was a Defense Intelligence Agency report that was released last week stating that ISIS forces would try to regroup in Syria while pressure from U.S.-Kurdish forces remained diminished.
In talking to reporters, McKenzie didn’t give a timeline for the operations, but did describe the military’s current relationship with Kurdish forces, despite all of the turmoil, as “pretty good.”
On the threat that ISIS still poses to the region, McKenzie said: “What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate.”
“They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”