“I think our whole country owes a great debt of gratitude to SDF and many of those Kurdish forces that are part of the SDF,” Williamson told the UK Parliament, referring to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who play a significant role in the SDF.
The defense secretary said he continues to hold discussions with his French and American counterparts “to continue to support” the Kurdish forces who have waged an important war against the Islamic State.
“We shouldn’t forget the debt of gratitude we owe them,” he added.
British special forces on the ground and the British air force provide support for the SDF in its fight against the Islamic State.
Last week, two British forces were allegedly injured in the battle against the extremist group in Syria.
Although the UK Secretary of State for Defense expressed his gratitude, British MPs are worried Turkey could attack the Kurds if the United States leaves Syria.
Nevertheless, US officials have stated they would protect the Kurds, even if Washington withdraws its 2,000 troops from the war-torn country.
On Monday, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said US President Donald Trump’s position on Syria “leaves the Kurdish forces and population in Syria very vulnerable to [attacks] by Russia, Turkey and others.” During the parliament session, Carmichael asked for “some assurance” that the UK would “continue [to] stand with those who stood with us” despite America’s decision to pull its troops.
On Sunday, Trump warned Ankara in a tweet that Washington would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit the Kurds.” Other MPs asked the defense secretary if the UK was concerned that a US troop withdrawal from Syria would “allow Turkey to crush the Kurdish forces” in Syria.
“Can government offer any reassurances to the Kurdish forces that it will continue to support their efforts to overcome [the Islamic State] in Syria and persuade our NATO ally Turkey to refrain from using its military might against the Kurds?” Labour MP Fabian Hamilton asked.According to UK Defense Secretary Williamson, although the Islamic State lost a lot of territory, they need to continue to work with allies such as the SDF and “neighbors of Syria” to make sure they continue to put pressure on the Islamic State and not give them space “to do harm in this country.” “We need also to be speaking [about] partners including Turkey to make sure that everyone comes to the table to create a long-lasting peace in Syria; that, of course, importantly includes the Kurds.” Both France and the UK have spoken out against troop withdrawals from Syria.
However, experts say it is difficult for the UK to keep forces in Syria, especially if the US pulls out.
“Without the American infrastructure, the French and the British cannot stay,” Wassim Nasr, a Middle East specialist for France 24, said.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany