Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Manbij. AFP photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey has proposed working with Arab fighters within the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for any future operation to capture Raqqa from Islamic State (ISIS) militants.
“The Arab elements of the SDF should learn to cooperate with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). We want the Arab elements of the SDF and the FSA to establish a joint administration in Manbij,” a senior Turkish official told Hurriyet news.
“These Arabs should act together in a military offensive towards Raqqa, too,” the official added.
The main group within the SDF is the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey charges is closely linked with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and refuses to work with.
Ankara agreed to permit the SDF, including YPG elements, to cross westward of the Euphrates River to recapture Manbij from ISIS earlier this year. They successfully did so but Turkey is frustrated that the YPG have not completely withdrawn.
Turkish-backed forces fighting under the flag of the FSA have also clashed with SDF/YPG fighters since the Turkish intervention in northwestern Syria in late August.
US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed upcoming operations against ISIS militants in both Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.