The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have again paused combat operations against ISIS so it can deal with attacks from the Turkish Army.

  • “The SDF temporarily suspended offensive actions against ISIS in response to cross border attacks by Turkey. We have been in communication w/both Turkey and the SDF to de-escalate the situation. Unity of focus on the defeat of ISIS is the Goal!” U.S. Army Col. Sean Ryan said Thursday on Twitter.
  • The operational pause comes amid new tensions on the Turkey-Syrian border. The Turkish military has shelled SDF positions (where some U.S. troops are also based) twice this week, according to Military Times.
  • In response, the SDF said it “replied” to Turkey’s attacks in accordance with the rules of engagement and destroyed a Turkish military vehicle, according to an SDF statement on Wednesday.
  • Turkey, which considers the SDF (which has elements of the YPG militia) an extension of the PKK militia that has fought an insurgency against Ankara for three decades, forced a Pentagon pause in operations earlier this year with its incursion into Afrin, Syria.
  • The SDF and Turkey also exchanged fire in June 2017.
  • The increased tensions puts the U.S. in an awkward spot: It’s been wholeheartedly backing the SDF in the fight against ISIS, while also trying to maintain its relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally.
  • President Donald Trump conveyed a message praising Turkey on Tuesday, telling them “the partnership between the United States and Turkey — NATO allies since 1952 — remains important.”