By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. is reinforcing the areas including Manbij where some part of PYG/PKK-led SDF left to fight in Afrin, the Pentagon said Thursday.
"I could tell you that we have probably done some repositioning to make sure of our own force protection, both down south, as well up - as up in Manbij," Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie explained in a response to a question whether the U.S. has done any militarily adjustments in the areas PYG/PKK-led SDF left.
McKenzie's remarks came at a joint press briefing with Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White.
Describing the situation in the Southern Euphrates River Valley, McKenzie said the mobilization of PYG/PKK-led SDF to Afrin decelerated the fight against Daesh in the region.
"And that has had an effect on our ability to finish off ISIS [Daesh] in the lower Euphrates River Valley. It has slowed the pace of our advance," he continued.
"I would not say that ISIS is gaining any momentum, but I would instead say the inevitable conclusion of this has been slowed by the fact that not so much rank and file, but some leadership has moved back up to the north."
Speaking of continuing conflicts in the region, McKenzie also said that they were following the developments closely.
When asked by a correspondent for Anadolu Agency if the U.S. discussed with PYG/PKK-led SDF about its repositioning to Afrin, he said the U.S. forces have good communications however, the repositioning decision was taken by the group, not the U.S.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and the "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.
Turning to a question about Russia's supportive stance toward the Bashar al-Assad regime who commits atrocities in Eastern Ghouta and in Syria nationwide, Spokesperson White said Russia is also responsible for Assad's actions.
"As Secretary Mattis said earlier this week, Russia is either incompetent, committing illegal acts or both. Russia is propping up the Assad regime, not targeting Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists in Syria. Russia could stop the civilian casualties in Syria," she added.
"Instead, their double dealing is exacerbating the loss of innocent lives. The Russians made deliberate - made a deliberate choice not to restrain the Assad regime. Thus, the carnage in east Ghouta continues. Russia is morally complicit and responsible for Assad's atrocities."