Hours after Syrian president Bashar Al Assad called on US forces to leave the country and threatened to attack America's partner the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a senior US military commander warned that such an attack by the regime would be “a bad policy.”
Speaking at the Pentagon on Thursday, director of Joint Staff General Kenneth McKenzie gave no indication of US plans to leave Syria, and cautioned against attacking the SDF.
“Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking US forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” General McKenzie said.
In the past US air force has targeted Mr Assad or allied proxies, to defend its SDF partners and secure the deconfliction zone in key areas over Syria.
The US commander refused to put any timeline on US presence in the country- estimated at 2000 troops and mostly in East of Syria.
General McKenzie said the status quo around Tanf area- where Iran and pro-Assad forces clashed in the past- remains unchanged.
"We are there. Nothing has changed,” he said. "The maintenance of that deconfliction zone [with Russia] is important and we would view very gravely any actions that tended to change that."
The US General said he was pleased with the progress against ISIS and the job that the SDF is doing on east of Euphrates river.
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"We are beginning to clear out the final pockets of ISIS,” he added.
Although a transition “to complete perfection” is not expected, the goal is to leave security elements at the local level, he explained.
General McKenzie expected ISIS to flee those areas or go underground. "If they stay, they're going to be killed unless they surrender" he said.
The US General comments follow Mr Assad's interview with Russia’s RT where he called the SDF as the “only problem in Syria”.
He said his regime “started now opening doors for negotiations” with them but “this is the first option. If not, we’re going to resort to ... liberating those areas by force. We don’t have any other options, with the Americans or without the Americans.”
The Syrian president added that “the Americans should leave, somehow they’re going to leave”.
Also on Thursday, the US Central Command released the latest numbers in the fight against ISIS. It said that the coalition “conducted a total of 29,358 strikes between August 2014 and end of April 2018".
It also said that during this period “at least 892 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve”.