US Senator calls for continued support of Kurdish-led SDF

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D, New Hampshire) on Sunday called for continued US support for the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D, New Hampshire) on Sunday called for continued US support for the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Misgivings persist in Washington about any understandings that President Donald Trump may have reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their July 16 summit in Helsinki, Finland.

On Sunday, Shaheen told CBS’ Face the Nation, “I am particularly concerned about Syria” and what Trump intends to do there.

“I was there several weeks ago with [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R. South Carolina],” Shaheen explained.

“We were in northeast Syria, where, thanks to our efforts and working with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are mostly Kurds, we have seen the region stabilize.”

“We need to make sure that continues,” the Senator affirmed. 

The Trump administration is withholding stabilization funds for Syria as it reviews the program, a step that Shaheen criticized.

“We need to find out why the White House is still holding on to the funding that we need for reconstruction efforts there, because the security is good, people are going back home,” she said.

Shaheen was extremely impressed by what she saw in her visit. “We went through the market in Manbij,” she stated, “which had been controlled by [the Islamic State] for several years.”

“People were out. Kids were playing in the streets. Women were walking around.”

“We need to make sure that that continues and not leave those Syrians to the Russians or to Assad,” she concluded.

Last week, on Wednesday, Shaheen grilled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she had the opportunity to speak at greater length.

“What I heard over and over again, both from the men and women who were serving and from the Syrian civilians on the ground was,” Shaheen explained, “Please don’t leave us here to the fate of either Assad or the Russians or other forces” that might enter the area.

The US military also believes that its partnership with the SDF in Syrian Kurdistan has been successful and wants to continue with the present policy.

Yet doubts exist about Trump’s plans, including, evidently, in Syrian Kurdistan itself.

If the US does not maintain its support for the SDF, the only realistic option for the organization is to reach some sort of understanding with the Syrian regime, despite their own doubts about the intentions of Bashar al-Assad.

As Salih Muslim, a senior member in the ruling council of SDF-controlled Syria told Kurdistan 24 two weeks ago, Assad’s regime is not serious in its negotiations.

Nonetheless, a delegation of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political wing of the SDF, held its first talks with the regime in Damascus earlier this week.

Yet, as Shaheen said, addressing Pompeo at the Senate hearing, “It would be, I believe, a real terrible reversal of policy for us to leave those folks after what we’ve done, and to turn them over to the Russians or to Assad’s forces.”

Editing by Nadia Riva