Talal Silo was the leader of an ethnic Turkoman unit within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the ground partner in Syria of the American-led international coalition against the Islamic State (IS). Having defected recently, Tilo has now given an interview about his experiences, the nature of the SDF, and the SDF’s links to the Bashar al-Asad regime and its supporters, Russia and Iran. Continue reading
As the new administration of Donald Trump works through the United States’ options in dealing with Syria, and the Islamic State (IS) specifically, one option apparently under consideration is the use of greater numbers of combat troops to accelerate the expulsion of IS from its Syrian capital, Raqqa. While more U.S. troops would undoubtedly hasten the collapse of IS’s grip on its urban strongholds in Syria, such a policy risks continuing the failed U.S. policies of the past six years in Syria that have tackled symptoms of the conflict, rather than its causes, have tried to tackle elements in isolation from the wider conflict, and have placed too great an emphasis on military progress over politics. Continue reading
Published at NOW Lebanon.
The Pentagon-run train-and-equip (T&E) program had intended to take Syrian rebels, stop them from being rebels by preventing them from fighting the Assad regime, and repurpose them into an American-directed strike force against the Islamic State (ISIS). Unsurprisingly, there were few takers and the program ended in disaster and humiliation. In the wake of this failure, President Barack Obama has turned away from the Arab rebels and looked to the Syrian Kurds to fight ISIS. This is a strategy that is not only doomed to fail—since Sunni Arabs taking responsibility for their local security is the only way to sustainably defeat ISIS—but would, if implemented, make the ISIS problem worse. A report from Amnesty International this week documenting crimes, including ethnic cleansing, by the armed Kurdish forces against Arabs and Turkmens in northern Syria also provides an occasion to look more closely at a force with a history of regime collaboration, political extremism, and terrorism. Continue reading