WASHINGTON, — Gains made by Syrian Kurd fighters against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have also lent support to Iraq’s fight against the extremist group by disrupting ISIL’s freedom of movement between the two countries, a U.S. Central Command spokesman said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference, Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder emphasized U.S. and coalition forces are also supporting and enabling Syrian Kurd opposition fighters in its train-and-equip program.
For nearly a year, other indigenous forces, such as Syrian Kurd fighters, have had support as they fought to save the town of Kobani, Syria, from ISIL, he said. “And the number of forces have continued to grow,” he added.
Since the start of the fight against ISIL, Syrian Kurds have achieved “significant effects” in the Northeast part of Syria, he said.
“[Syrian Kurds] pushed ISIL back and in the process, regained more than 17,000 square kilometers of territory — more than 6,500 square miles — previously held by the enemy,” Ryder noted.
“They’ve also retaken critical border crossing points between Syria and Turkey, including Kobani [and] Tal Abyad, and going forward, this should help abate the flow of foreign fighters into Syria,” he said.
With Syrian Kurds disrupting ISIL’s movement in Iraq and Syria, Ryder said the Kurds’ gains should over time help to further stabilize and improve security inside Iraq.
“So, we want to see these anti-ISIL forces operating in Syria continue to be successful,” he said.
In a fight as complex as fighting ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria, Ryder said “it should be expected” the United States can and will employ every available asset to disrupt and degrade the enemy.
“Going forward, we will continue to pursue opportunities as they present themselves across what is a very complex and dynamic battlefield,” he said.
By Terri Moon Cronk