Turkey-Syria potential normalization threatens US presence in NE Syria – daily

If Turkey normalizes ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it will allow him to regain control of northern Syria and weaponized Islamic State (ISIS) militants to attack the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The Defense Post said, in a report, that this will push back the SDF and possibly spur the US withdrawal from northeast Syria.

Turkey’s efforts to normalize relations with Syria have developed over the past few months. Late in December 2022, a trilateral meeting took place between the defense ministers of Turkey, Syria and Russia in Moscow, marking the first high-level meeting between Syria and Turkey since the onset of the Syrian war in 2011.

The Defense Post said, citing Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, that al-Assad released in 2011 several jihadists from prison, including Amr al-Absi, who became a top ISIS leader, and released several more key ISIS figures in the years since.

In turn, Natasha Hall, a senior fellow with the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the US withdrawal from northeast Syria would “spur an exodus of all those who cannot live under the regime or Russian control.”

Thus, al-Assad will gain full control of Syria’s oil, agricultural resources and the estimated 10,000 ISIS supporters in SDF-run camps, the source added.

 “Having control of thousands of ISIS members and sympathizers would dramatically increase the Syrian regime’s influence over the world, not just neighboring countries,” said Hall.

Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, Commander of US Central Command, said on March 9 that ISIS fighters in detention camps in northeast Syria are a “veritable” ISIS army in detention that will pose a great threat regionally and abroad if they are freed.

ISIS lost its final stronghold in Syria in March 2019. The SDF, with the support of the US-led Global Coalition, defeated ISIS after fierce battles in the town of Baghouz in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, bringing an end to the so-called caliphate declared by the terrorist ISIS.

After Baghouz, thousands of ISIS fighters were transferred to prisons run by the SDF and US-led Global Coalition.

News Code 158945

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