The US military might be staying in Syria even after the defeat of Daesh, confirming Turkey’s concerns regarding US and YPG manoeuvring to create an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria.
The US military will remain in northern Syria long after Daesh is defeated, spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said, predicting enduring ties with the region.
Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the group, which is an amalgamation of various groups dominated by the YPG, referred media to the Pentagon. He said there was "still a lot of fighting to do, even after ISIS [Daesh] has been defeated in Raqqa."
"Our mission ... is to defeat ISIS [Daesh] in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and to set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability," Dillon said, without elaborating.
Turkey's concerns confirmed
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, did not deny the statements, “The Department of Defense does not discuss timelines for future operations. However we remain committed to the destruction of ISIS [Daesh] and preventing its return.”
This confirms Turkey’s concerns regarding US and YPG manoeuvring in Northern Syria.
Ankara has long suspected US support for YPG forces in northern Syria had political aims of Kurdish autonomy in the region.
Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the PKK, which has waged a war against the Turkish state since 1984.
The US, EU, and Turkey all consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation.
The US-led SDF has deployed forces at several locations in northern Syria, including an airbase near the town of Kobani. The US has supported the YPG within the SDF with air strikes, artillery, and special forces on the ground.
YPG project in Northern Syria
The SDF and YPG dominate a swathe of northern Syria where autonomous Kurdish “cantons” have emerged in 2012 after the onset of the Syrian conflict,
The YPG and its allies hold an uninterrupted 400 km (250mi) stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border, which has come with forceful displacement, razing of villages and home demolitions of predominantly-Arab and Turkmen villages in the region, actions international human rights organisations have said amounted to ethnic cleansing and war crimes.
The YPG’s project in Northern Syria has aimed to transition from the cantons to an autonomous region. YPG’s co-chair Saleh Muslim said that he expects Raqqa to become a part of a decentralised type of government being set up in northern Syria.
US support of YPG and SDF in Northern Syria has long been a source of tension between Washington and Ankara.