US-led coalition has no intention to create federal Kurdish state in Syria: official

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Kurdish fighters of the YPG and YPJ bidding farewell to a comrade killed during clashes with jihadists in Aleppo countryside. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

The top U.S. ground commander in Iraq Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told reporters on Tuesday the US-led coalition had no intention to create a Kurdish federal state in northern Syria.

“It’s not my mission to create a Kurdish federal state, and we’re not liberating Raqqa for any one party,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said. “And what we see with the Syrian Democratic Forces is although they may be largely Kurdish led, they are over half non-Kurd. Mostly Arabs, some others, some Turkmen and some others.”

“But the Kurds are only about 10 percent of the population of northern Syria. So I don’t really see how there’s actually gonna be anything called a Kurdish federal state in northern Syria. What I think is that the people of northern Syria, all of them, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, others alike, are determining what their future’s going to be,” he added.

“So, I don’t really see a Kurdish federal state and I don’t know whether Raqqa’s going to be part of it or not. Our job is to rid northern Syria of ISIS and that’s what we’re doing,” he concluded.

The top US general added that Raqqa in the future would be governed by its local people, and the Kurdish-led SDF forces will move on.

“Raqqa is largely, by overwhelming majority, an Arab city. And the Syrian Democratic Forces are enlargening the Syrian Arab Coalition, part of their formation, to liberate Raqqa,” the General said. “Will there be Kurds that will fight in Raqqa? Certainly there will be, because there are Kurds from Raqqa. Raqqa is not homogeneous. They are all the peoples who live in northern Syria are also living in Raqqa. So some Kurds will fight there, some Kurds units may fight there.”

However, he did not  expect any Kurdish units to remain in Raqqa. “What we have seen as Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated a good 20 percent of more of northern Syria, is they have recruited fighters from the local area. They have led the assault to liberate their own towns and villages,” Townsend said. “Once those have been liberated, they believe the local fighters, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen alike, whoever’s from that local area, they leave them to secure it and they leave them to govern it and they move on.”

“So, again, remember my point, the Kurds are less than 10 percent of the population. They can’t really do anything by force. They can’t rule or dictate what happens in northern Syria. They will lead and they will bring together the coalitions they have to go take Raqqa,” he stated. “I think at the end of the fight, there are probably few, if any, probably none — Kurdish fighting elements left in Raqqa, because that’s not the demographics of the place. They’ll turn it over to Raqqawis to secure and govern themselves.”

Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News that the demography of northern Syria would not support an ethnic Kurdish state.

“The demography of the Federal System of Northern Syria would not support a Kurdish state. The only workable mechanism to achieve stability in that region is an inclusive, multiethnic governance structure,” he said.

“The U.S. military knows this, and the leadership of the SDF knows this. Widening the aperture to what happens after ISIS in areas like Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, the fact of the matter is that those areas, if they become part of the SDF-built Federal System, would be led by locals,” Heras added.

“In the Arab areas of eastern Syria, that means Arab led. There are not enough Kurdish YPG units to garrison these core Arab areas after ISIS. Under the Federal System, local Arabs would be in power, and to suggest otherwise is to feed into Turkish propaganda aimed to undermine the SDF and the U.S. military effort against ISIS in Syria,” he concluded.

Syrian Kurdish leaders affiliated to the SDF and PYD say that they don’t want to create a Kurdish state in northern Syria, but a federal region for all ethnic groups. This while the rival Kurdish National Council (KNC) –part of the Syrian opposition– wants to create a Kurdistan region of Syria.

“The KNC wants an Iraqi federal model with regions for Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds, but we don’t like that,” Aldar Xelil, a senior Kurdish politician from PYD-linked TEV-DEM organization told ARA News. “We don’t want this, we want a democratic society system, in which all nations can live together,” he added.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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