Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon-Mobil and President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, said that the Kurds are America’s great ally in Syria. Nevertheless, he also said they should re-engage with Ankara in spite of Turkey’s efforts to undermine their political aspirations.
Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Secretary of State nominee called the Islamic State (ISIS) “the most immediate threat” facing America and said that the US should work with the Syrian Kurds to confront it.
“Can we construct a renewed coalition using the forces that are already there, including the Syrian Kurds, which have been our great allies?” Tillerson asked.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an operation on November 6, to isolate the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa city.
Tillerson said that Washington should “recommit to the Syrian Kurds that we intend to continue to support [them] with the capability to continue the advance on Raqqa and then build coalition forces that can contain ISIS if it attempts to move into other parts of the country.”
“The defeat of ISIS globally is extremely challenging because it does not represent a country,” Tillerson reasoned. “[We must] actually undermine ISIS ideology and its legitimacy.”
During the hearing, Republican senator Rob Portman echoed Tillerson’s remarks, characterizing the Syrian Kurds as America’s ally in Syria.
Turkey remains adamantly opposed to any coalition support for the SDF, seeing the polyethnic alliance as a front for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Turkey-backed rebels and the Turkish military have attacked YPG and SDF positions in northern Syria during their campaign to take the city of Al-Bab. Ankara aims to prevent Syrian Kurds from connecting the Kobani and Efrin cantons, which would create a contiguous Kurdish-led territory along the Turkish border.
The SDF released a statement on Tuesday, which was retweeted by the US Central Command on Thursday, saying they do not have links to the PKK. “SDF confirms that it has no affiliation or ties to PKK,” CENTCOM said.
Secretary of Defense nominee General James Mattis did not mention the Kurds during his confirmation hearing, but suggested the US-led coalition should accelerate the campaign in Raqqa. “I believe that strategy needs to be reviewed and perhaps energized on a more aggressive timeline,” he said.
Ernie Audino, a retired Brigadier General in the United States Army, told ARA News that the incoming Trump administration will likely recognize the contributions of Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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