(Photo credit: Rodi Said/Reuters)
The commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told Reuters in an interview on 29 November that the Kurdish militia wants “stronger” assurances that Washington will prevent a Turkish ground offensive against its forces in northern Syria.
“There are reinforcements on the border and within Syria in areas controlled by factions allied to Turkey. We noticed this and, yes, this is new … We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkey,” General Mazloum Kobane Abdi said.
“Turkey has announced its intent and is now feeling things out. The beginning of an invasion will depend on how it analyses the positions of other countries,” he added. Abdi also said that he has been given “clear” assurances that both the US and Russia will oppose Turkiye’s ground offensive, but that the SDF needs to see more.
The US has reportedly been mediating between Ankara and the SDF in order to prevent the Turkish offensive, offering a 30-kilometer pullback of Kurdish militants from the border with Turkiye. Turkiye has reportedly requested the pullback, but also demanded further concessions, such as a percentage of oil revenues from SDF-controlled territory.
Turkiye has reportedly offered to substitute all its conditions for a handover of the territory in question to Turkish-backed militias. Russia has also been mediating between Ankara and the Kurds, similarly proposing the 30-kilometer withdrawal and a handover of the territory to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). However, reports say that internal divisions among the SDF have prevented an agreement.
The day before Abdi’s latest interview, SDF spokesman Aram Khana was quoted by Russian media as saying that the militia has requested Russia to mediate an alliance between it and the Syrian government.
Despite this, Abdi told Reuters – having previously told them the opposite – that the SDF will not rely on Damascus and its air defenses because their “position is weak compared to the Turkish army.”
The SDF and Damascus have coordinated jointly against Turkish strikes in the past. Experts have suggested that a Russian-mediated settlement between Syria and the Kurds is the US-backed group’s best option.
“Everyone is busy. The Russia-Ukraine war has had a negative impact on these countries’ commitments in this region,” Abdi added, referring particularly to his group’s supposed ally, the US, but also alluding to Moscow and Ankara.
Though a settlement is seemingly in the making, some have speculated that the US has already given Turkiye the green light to launch the offensive, given that Ankara has promised it is inevitable. On 28 November, Turkish officials announced that the army was ‘a few days’ away from the offensive, and that a decision could be taken at an upcoming cabinet meeting.