The Syrian Democratic Forces struck a deal on Sunday with president Bashar al-Assad’s government to allow Syrian troops to reenter the northeast region of the country for the first time in years, following a withdrawal of U.S. troops and subsequent Turkish invasion of the area.
SDF commander Mazloum Abdi outlined his reasoning for making the alliance in an article in Foreign Policy, writing that his forces cannot repel the Turkish military without the aid of allies, and that in the absence of American help his organization would be forced to ally itself with the Syrians and the Russians.
“We know that we would have to make painful compromises with Moscow and Bashar al-Assad if we go down the road of working with them,” wrote Abdi. “But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people.”
The U.S. presence in the region has for years prevented Syria- and Russia-backed militias from gaining control over the area. Kurdish groups had allied themselves with U.S. forces to combat ISIS following the latter’s emergence during the Syrian civil war.
The Syrian army quickly moved to take over certain towns including Tel Amer, the site of a previous battle between Kurdish and ISIS forces.
“I’m here to kick out the Turkish mercenaries,” said one Syrian soldier quoted on Syrian state TV.
President Trump announced on October 7 that he would be withdrawing U.S. troops from the Syrian-Turkish border in anticipation of a Turkish invasion of the area. Turkey plans to resettle 3.6 million Syrian refugees in the region once the conquest is complete, while it is also fighting Kurdish groups that it deems terrorist organizations.