Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, told Bloomberg in a phone interview Thursday that, without U.S. support, the Kurds may turn to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to help resist recent Turkish offensives in northern Syria.
“If our allies do not stop this catastrophe to our people, the situation will become worse,” he said. “I think an alliance with Assad could happen. If we get to this point, where we are hopeless.”
President Trump announced on Monday that U.S. troops would withdraw from northeast Syria, a move followed by an invasion of the area by Turkey. The Turkish government plans to set up a “safe zone” inside Syria to resettle Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war, as well as to fight the Kurdish YPG, which it considers a terrorist organization.
The SDF, which has said it has lost more than 10,000 fighters in the war against the Islamic State, warned in a statement Monday that with Turkey invading, it would be forced to divert forces from operations against ISIS in the south, destroying “all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the last years.”
The SDF has over 11,000 ISIS prisoners in custody. Abdi told Bloomberg that, for now, the Kurds are continuing to guard the prisoners but may not be able to continue to do so as the fight against the Turkish incursion escalates. He also said that some militia members fighting along side the Turks are former jihadists.
Following several days of a Turkish offensive into northern Syria, President Trump suggested Thursday that the U.S. may use soft power tactics to halt the bloodshed.
“We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!” Trump tweeted.
Abdi urged Trump to reconsider his withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region in the Thursday interview.
“I believe the only person capable of preventing this disaster is President Trump,” he said.
According to Reuters, Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Maqdad said Thursday that the Kurds were “armed groups had betrayed their country and committed crimes against it. We won’t accept any dialogue or talk with those who had become hostages to foreign forces.”
The Syrian Kurdish YPG helped the Syrian government in the early days of the Syrian civil war, but Damascus has threatened that the Kurds must submit to state authority or risk defeat to Turkey.