US commander sees no Kurdish federation in Syria’s future
WASHINGTONThe U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) does not expect the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to be able to build a Kurdish federal state in Syria’s north, according to the coalition forces’ commander.
“It’s not my mission to create a Kurdish federal state, and we’re not liberating Raqqa for any one party,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a briefing on March 28.
Townsend’s remarks came a day after PYD leader Salih Muslim said Raqqa could join a decentralized government system proposed by Syrian Kurdish groups for the country once it is free from ISIL.
“What we see with the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] is although they may be largely Kurdish led, they are over half non-Kurd. Mostly Arabs, some others, some Turkmen and some others,” said Townsend.
“But the Kurds are only about 10 percent of the population of northern Syria. So I don’t really see how there’s actually going to be anything called a Kurdish federal state in northern Syria. What I think is that the people of northern Syria, all of them, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, others alike, are determining what their future’s going to be,” he added.
“So, I don’t really see a Kurdish federal state and I don’t know whether Raqqa’s going to be part of it or not. Our job is to rid northern Syria of ISIS [ISIL] and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
The top U.S. general added that Raqqa in the future would be governed by its local people, and that the Kurdish-led SDF forces will move on.
“Raqqa is largely, by overwhelming majority, an Arab city. And the Syrian Democratic Forces are enlarging the Syrian Arab Coalition, part of their formation, to liberate Raqqa. Will there be Kurds that will fight in Raqqa? Certainly there will be, because there are Kurds from Raqqa,” he said.
However, he said he did not expect any Kurdish units to remain in Raqqa.
“What we have seen as Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated a good 20 percent of more of northern Syria is they have recruited fighters from the local area. They have led the assault to liberate their own towns and villages,” Townsend said.
“Once those have been liberated, they believe the local fighters, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen alike, whoever’s from that local area, they leave them to secure it and they leave them to govern it and they move on,” he added.
The SDF, which mainly consists of the PYD’s armed wing People’s Protection Units (YPG), is currently in an offensive backed by the U.S.-led coalition to free Raqqa from ISIL.
Turkey considers the PYD and YPG as extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it regards as a terrorist group, and wants the U.S. and Russia to stop backing the groups.