Tag: Manbij

Duplicitious Alliances

The chief of US Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel visited Kobani and Raqqa front lines in Syria yesterday to reassure Kurdish and Arab allies in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the US is still with them. While he urged the SDF to continue the offensive against ISIS-held city, SDF commanders warned him in no uncertain terms that should the Turkey-backed jihadis attack Manbij, the Raqqa offensive will be over and their forces will withdraw to defend their territory in the north.

sdf

 Taking pressure off Raqqa is precisely the outcome both Turkey and ISIS sought when they agreed to a deal to surrender al-Bab to FSA jihadis in secret talks with Turkish chief of staff in the United Arab Emirates last week. ISIS fighters will retreat and consolidate their forces around Raqqa while Turkey, having caused the failure of the Raqqa offensive by attacking Manbij, can re-portray itself as the only force capable of taking on ISIS. Thus the western efforts to destroy ISIS can be hampered, delayed or otherwise abandoned.

Is the US too blind to see this ploy? On the contrary, Turkey has long signaled that it considers the SDF as greater threat to its interests than ISIS. Turkey only started its campaign to drive ISIS from border areas with Syria when they realised that, after Manbij, the US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance were going to liberate al-Bab. The US is too wrapped up in its formal NATO alliance with Turkey to acknowledge Turkish president Erdogan’s destabilising duplicity for what it is.

Following General Votel’s visit CENTCOM twitter account published several photographs showing SDF fighters fresh out of their training and getting their uniforms and AKs. An image of a US-made anti-IED mine vehicle being delivered to the SDF also circulated. These are not necessarily positive developments for Kurds. In the photo captions, the Arab part of the SDF, Syrian Arab Coalition, was specifically mentioned several times, while Kurds and their Peoples’ Protection Force (YPG) went distinctly unnamed.

Kurds and their Arab allies have every reason to be wary of the strength of the US commitment for the SDF. The so-called real-politik may yet cause the Americans to abandon the only trusted pro-western secular force in Syria in favour of a motley crew of jihadis backed by an unreliable NATO ally.

Advertisements

Silver linings in the fog of Rojava

Like many observers in the international media, Foreign Policy magazine also states in no uncertain terms that Turkish-backed FSA jihadi rebel incursion in Syria to capture Jarablus is intended not against ISIS but to roll back Kurdish gains in the west of Euphrates.

This article as well as several other news sources have stated that the Kurdish YPG have transferred the control of Manbij to the Arab-Kurdish alliance of SDF and “returned to base” without mentioning when and how the alleged withdrawal took place.

FP also states that the FSA jihadi rebels who took Jarablus in the north of Manbij without a fight might move on to al-Bab where ISIS fighters retreated. Al-Bab is a Kurdish populated town in the west of Manbij and until a few days ago was in YPG’s sights. Kurds there must now wait longer for liberation.

If there is a silver lining to the dark clouds over Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), that is the lack of convincing ideology, disorganisation and ineptitude of FSA rebels. They are not fighting and dying for a just cause but for the money they receive from Ankara. There is not a single town under FSA control that is administered properly. They will fail in al-Bab and Jarablus too.

As for the YPG’s withdrawal from Manbij, that resembles another incident during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At the time, Kurdish control of Kirkuk was also a red line for Turkey. The Peshmerga liberated Kirkuk, Turkey complained, the USA ordered withdrawal, and the Kurdish government said “we are doing it right now”, which they never did. Kirkuk is the most heavily defended city in Kurdistan now.

The fog of war prevents us from observing the YPG’s withdrawal back to the east of the Euphrates. What we know is that if the FSA rebels want Manbij, they will have to fight and die for it like Kurds did to liberate it from ISIS barbarians.