The Kurdish militias in Syria have been a loyal partner for the US in its so-called war on ISIS to achieve their goals in governing their own territory. However, the Kurds started seeking other parts assistance, proving once more that they are non-trustworthy and that the global powers should rely on real partners on the ground.
At the height of its power two years ago, Islamic State ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of Baghdad in Iraq.
However, ISIS’s territory is shrinking rapidly since last year as the US-led coalition, the Turkish-backed forces, and the Russian-backed Assad regime forces have fierce fights against its forces in both Syria and Iraq.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, is supported by the US as the latter uses them in its war against ISIS.
Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition and a long fight by the SDF forces ended in recapturing Manbij from the control of the Islamic State (ISIS) group last year.
The SDF, backed by US coalition, launched also a campaign with the ultimate aim of capturing Raqqa in November and succeeded in encircling the city. Recently, they launched an assault on Deir Ezzor province to cut the road to Raqqa and surrounding ISIS effectively and were able to achieve this goal after fierce clashes.
Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition and a long fight by the SDF forces ended in recapturing Manbij from the control of the Islamic State (ISIS) group last year, and they sought then to control al-Bab city to link their cantons together but the Turkish military intervention prevented them.
Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of Kurdish PKK militants, who have waged a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey, and sought therefore to sideline the Kurdish role in Raqqa operations but failed to achieve this goal and declared ending its military operations in Syria.
In addition to the US, Russia has cooperated with the Kurds in northern Syria despite Turkey’s refusal.
Seeking new partnerships
The YPG has been a loyal force for the United States for a while on the ground in Syria. The YPG allegedly fights ISIS in Syria and pursues its ultimate goal of creating an autonomous state along Turkey’s southern border.
However, the YPG may not be so much of a loyal partner for the US as the group has the potential to change course and side with other actors to reach autonomy.
Recently, the YPG reached an agreement with the Assad regime and Russia to leave the western part of Manbij in the face of a possible offensive by Turkish troops. While Washington and Moscow differ on numerous matters, the YPG seems to have sided with both to protect its interests.
Even though the YPG’s affair with Russia is obvious, US Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford made an astonishing statement earlier in the week. “The group that we are supporting, certainly at the political level, are engaged with Russia,” Dunford said, referring to the YPG.
However, regarding the YPG’s collaborations with the Kremlin on the ground, Dunford said: “The YPG has a political office in Moscow itself but the groups that we’re providing support to on the ground are not being supported directly by Russian military forces.”
While Washington and Moscow may think that they are using the YPG on the ground to preserve their influence in the region, the group plays with both to realize its own agenda.
Risky move, Turkey a better partner
The US lists the PKK as a terrorist organization, but it does not recognize the YPG as such, despite countless evidence provided by Turkish authorities that prove the undeniable links between the PKK and the PYD. In turn, Russia does not even consider the PKK as a terrorist organization, let alone the YPG.
The US and Russia must grasp that working with a group to allegedly fight another is a risky move in the long term. While the YPG sides with anyone as it pleases, neither the Trump administration nor the Kremlin can ensure that it will remain loyal.
Are the US and Russia, which are hostile towards each other, willing to share a beloved group to bolster influence in the region? And then there is a problem with Ankara. The Turkish government has made it clear multiple times that it does not favor any relations between the US and the YPG.
Also, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said that Russia’s relationship with the group is “upsetting.”
The two countries’ troubling relations are highly likely to continue in the short term. However, Turkey stands out as a better and wiser alternative to the YPG. Given that Turkish officials have already signaled readiness to launch offensives against ISIS strongholds, the choice now is for the US and Russia to make a move that would be a game changer.
Though Turkey declared ending its military operations in Syria two days ago, Turkish officials have already signaled readiness to launch offensives against ISIS stronghold in Raqqa if necessary, so the choice now is for the US and Russia to make a move that would be a game changer.