US withdrawal from Syria leaves Kurds backed into a corner

Donald Trump’s decision to put an end to the US military operation against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria has left many observers wondering what might happen to Washington’s main partners on the ground, the Kurds, and whether their enemy Turkey offered the president anything in return.

Mr Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that the 2,000 US troops deployed largely in north-eastern Syria would begin withdrawing immediately was a gift to Turkey, and also to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

By supporting the alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Washington gained indirect control of half of Syria’s strategic resources – including many oil fields and dams, and much of its most fertile agricultural land – and leverage in discussions with Mr Assad and his allies Russia and Iran on the country’s future.

Now the SDF is backed into a corner and the Kurdish militia that dominates the alliance, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), faces two probable scenarios.

Ankara says the YPG is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey and has fought for Kurdish autonomy there since 1984, and…

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