Syrian Kurdish party backs longer US role in Syria
The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey considers as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a terrorist group, on Nov. 15 welcomed a longer-term role for U.S. forces in Syria after the defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying the Americans should continue to play a role until a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Syrian Kurdish PYD, and its armed wing People’s Protection Units (YPG), have been the main partner on the ground for a U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIL in northern and eastern Syria, despite opposition from Turkey.
The PYD has established autonomous rule in territory its allied militia control, and says it wants a federal model for Syria.
On Nov. 13, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described a longer-term role for U.S. troops long after ISIL militants lose control of all the territory they hold.
In a written message to Reuters, the PYD’s co-president, Shahoz Hasan, agreed that this would be beneficial.
“Without achieving a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and with the continuation of the Turkish and Iranian intervention in Syria, and with the continued presence of al-Qaeda groups in Syria, the continued operation of the coalition is better,” Hasan said.
While all sides in Syria were battling against ISIL, the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces mostly avoided direct confrontation with the Syrian government, backed by Iran and Russia. But as ISIL has been driven from nearly all its territory in recent months, the government and its Iranian allies have increasingly spoken of taking back areas held by the Kurdish-led militias.
Syria’s Kurdish groups hope for a new phase of negotiations to shore up their autonomy in northern Syria.
Mattis said the U.S. military’s longer-term objective would be to prevent the return of an “ISIS 2.0.”
But he also suggested that U.S. forces aimed to help set the conditions for a diplomatic solution in Syria, saying “we’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has traction”, a reference to U.N.-backed peace talks.
In response to the Mattis statement, the Syrian government said on Nov. 14 that Washington was presenting a new excuse to keep its forces in Syria by linking this presence to a political settlement, having previously said its goal was to fight ISIL.
A foreign ministry statement affirmed the government’s position that the presence of U.S. and other forces in Syria without government approval was an act of aggression.
A top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said last week that he expected the Syrian army to recapture eastern Syria soon. An adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also said last week that Damascus would not give up on Raqqa.