YPG describes US pullout from Syria as 'Stab in the back'

07/10/2019 - 22:18 Published in News/General

The Kurdish-led forces who helped the United States defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group in Syria have accused Washington of reneging on its commitments by pulling out troops from the country's northeast and clearing the way for a Turkish assault on the Kurdish-controlled region.

In a statement on Monday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) pledged to "defend our land at all costs", with the group also calling Washington's move "a stab in the back".

The SDF, led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), was Washington's main ally in Syria in the fight against ISIL. In recent years, they have expanded their control in northern and eastern Syria, in a vast area stretching 480km (300 miles) from the Euphrates River to the Iraq border.

Turkey considers the Kurdish forces a "terrorist organisation" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed campaign for autonomy in Turkey.

The beginning of the US troops' withdrawal came after a statement late on Sunday by the White House that the US would not intervene in the long-threatened Turkish operation. The announcement came after a phone call between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In early August, the US military, which has pledged to protect the SDF from a Turkish attack, agreed to a "security mechanism" with Ankara, under which Kurdish forces would be pulled back from the Turkey-Syria border and a "safe zone" would be set up for the return of some of the 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey.

Following the agreement, the SDF destroyed YPG "fighting positions" in northeast Syria, before beginning to pull back from near the border.

But Ankara, increasingly unnerved by the Kurdish presence near its border, has long accused Washington of taking "too long" to act on the security deal, and Erdogan announced earlier this week an imminent "air and ground" operation to clear the border region.