Tag Archives: Syrian Democratic Forces

Al-Qaeda Says Attacking Syrian Rebel Groups Was Self-Defence Against A ‘Conspiracy’

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 26, 2017

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Violence erupted between Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the rebranded al-Qaeda branch in Syria, and Ahrar al-Sham, its long-time ally and its bridge into the Syrian rebellion, beginning on 19 January. These clashes expanded to encompass the mainstream armed opposition on 23 January. Today, al-Maqalaat, a pro-JFS outlet, published a long statement explaining the fighting from JFS’s point-of-view. The salient points of the argument and other interesting elements are highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Turkey’s Intervention in Syria Improves the Prospects for Peace

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 25, 2016

Picture put out by Faylaq al-Sham of Jarabulus soon after the Islamic State was expelled (Telegram, 24 August 2016)

Picture put out by Faylaq al-Sham of Jarabulus soon after the Islamic State was expelled (Telegram, 24 August 2016)

After a horrific suicide bombing by IS at a Kurdish wedding in eastern Turkey had slaughtered more than fifty people on Saturday, Turkey moved to expel the Islamic State (IS) from Jarabulus in eastern Aleppo Province at about 4 AM on Wednesday morning. IS was swept from this last major border town in Syria, a key gateway for resources to the outside world, around ten hours later.

Operation EUPHRATES SHIELD saw Turkey put troops and tanks over the border publicly for the first time, and allow the Free Syrian Army (FSA)-branded and other mainstream Syrian rebels who have been battling IS for years to use Turkish territory to launch the assault. It was supported by airstrikes from the international anti-IS coalition.

For Turkey, this is a strong indication of a change in her threat-perception vis-à-vis IS, but it is also about a (correctly) perceived threat of what was to follow IS. Continue reading

The West’s Kurdish Allies in Syria Can’t Escape Their Authoritarian Legacy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 13, 2016

PYD/YPG fighters

PYD/YPG fighters

The Islamic State (IS) was driven from the city of Manbij yesterday, a key supply route to the Turkish border in northern Syria, the conclusion of an operation launched on 31 May by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a front-group for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), represented in Syria by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The SDF was backed by U.S. airstrikes. It is difficult not to see the defeat of IS as a positive development. It is, however, worth more closely examining the forces that are being enabled by Western power to fasten their rule across northern Syria, whose vision is deeply problematic—even in narrow terms of the fight against IS. Continue reading

Is the Islamic State About to Kill Itself?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on June 7, 2016

Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli, Amr al-Absi, Tarkhan Batirashvili

Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli, Amr al-Absi, Tarkhan Batirashvili

The Associated Press reported on Sunday that after a senior Islamic State (IS) commander was struck down by the international coalition in March it set off a witch-hunt inside the organization that led to the killing of thirty-eight IS jihadists at the hands of their own leaders. By AP’s account, IS is now consumed with internal suspicion. The story has some problems, however. Continue reading

America Picked the Wrong Allies Against the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 17, 2016

PYD/PKK fighters after they took over the Mannagh airbase on February 10, 2016.

PYD/PKK fighters after they took over the Mannagh airbase on February 10, 2016.

Over the last six weeks the regime of Bashar al-Assad—which by this point means in most areas Iranian-run ground forces and Russian air power—have made territorial gains in northern Syria that threaten the existence of the armed opposition in the area. This threat has been compounded by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and allies, which have also drawn on Russian airstrikes to attack the rebellion in the same areas. The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) has made the PYD its main proxy inside Syria—the only force that can call in coalition airstrikes. This policy was obviously flawed given the view of the PYD by necessary anti-ISIS allies like Turkey and the demographic realities of ISIS, which require Sunni Arabs to be able to police their area, and ensure that ISIS begins to look like a protector of Sunnis if Kurds occupy Arab areas; the PYD now attacking the crucial anti-ISIS demographic in alliance with the regime underlines that fact. Continue reading

Why Solely Backing the PYD Against the Islamic State is a Mistake

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 20, 2015

Published at NOW Lebanon.

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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