SDF Commander Mazloum Abdi was hosted by Columbia University’s Director David Phillips in an informative discussion held on the “Security Situation in North and East Syria.” The recent Turkish escalation and airstrike campaign, along with the status of the anti-ISIS campaign, and relations with the US were at the forefront of the event.

Mazloum said that although they are opposed to any Turkish operation, the United States has not yet taken forceful action or a strong stance against the looming ground offensive and ongoing air and artillery campaign, calling for “de-escalation”  from both sides, despite also confirming that Turkish strikes put US personnel at risk.

He further confirmed that the operations against ISIS have stopped due to SDF personnel being re-deployed against the potential Turkish attack. According to SDF intelligence, “ISIS is actively preparing to free many prisoners and are waiting for a Turkish offensive.” Turkish air strikes hit the vicinity of al-Hawl Camp on November 23, killing eight SDF soldiers.

Mazloum further emphasized the importance of the stance of the United States Congress, where both the Senate and the House of Representatives acted rapidly and decisively when Turkey previously invaded the region. Recent months have seen attempts by certain members of Congress to introduce amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 that would forbid the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey unless certain conditions, including certification that such weapons wouldn’t be used against the SDF, are met. F-16s were used in the recent bout of Turkish airstrikes that devastated North and East Syria’s civilian infrastructure.