RAQQA – The US Central Command on Tuesday shared photos of female Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters on its Twitter account with the caption “Ready for the fight”.
The posts come on the same day US President Donald Trump is expected to unveil the new plan to capture the Islamic State (IS) stronghold, Raqqa, in northern Syria. Some have read the photos as a response to Turkish officials who have been calling for the US to end its support for the Kurdish-Arab majority SDF.
The posts were favourited and retweeted hundreds of times but also received criticism from Turkish users of the social media platform.
Some accused the US of working with a ‘terrorist organisation,’ a term Ankara uses for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a leading force in the SDF, which it says is the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Tensions have escalated more recently as several forces have collided in and around the al-Bab and Manbij region in the northwest of Syria. Clashes have been reported between the Turkish-backed FSA and Syrian government forces, while both of these groups have also engaged in squirmishes with the SDF, not to mention all three groups reportedly fighting militants of the Islamic State group.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday once again called on the US to cease its support for the “PYD and YPG” and added that, “the next phase of Turkey’s operation in Syria will be Manbij,” an area held by the SDF.
Commentators have said the US Central Command’s Twitter post is further confirmation that the new US administration will continue supporting the SDF’s operation to enter central Raqqa, a move Turkey has virulently objected to.
Turkey could attack Manbij in retaliation commentators have speculated, a move that would provoke the ire of the US but also Russia and Syria. Meanwhile US special forces have reportedly positioned themselves in northwestern Manbij to prevent possible attacks by Turkish-backed Euphrates Shield (FSA) forces.