Syrian opposition calls for deploying Rojava Peshmerga in buffer zone

The Turkish-backed Syrian opposition on Saturday called for activating the role of the Rojava Peshmerga battalion in a new buffer zone currently under discussion by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US, and Turkey.
author_image Hisham Arafat

ISTANBUL (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish-backed Syrian opposition on Saturday called for deploying the Rojava Peshmerga battalion in a proposed buffer zone currently under discussion by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US, and Turkey.  

“There are thousands of efficient Roj Peshmerga fighters who can play a significant role in the safe zone,” Abdulhakim Bashar, deputy head of the Turkish-based Syrian opposition group known as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, commonly referred to as the Syrian National Coalition, told Kurdistan 24.

Bashar also said that Syria’s Kurdish National Council (ENKS) can play an important role in the establishment of the buffer zone along the Turkish border in northeast Syria.

“The Kurdish National Council should be a partner in the protection and administration of the Kurdish region,” he said.

Dr. Abdulhakim Bashar, deputy head of the the Turkish-based Syrian opposition known as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, commonly referred to as the Syrian National Coalition), August 17, 2019. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Dr. Abdulhakim Bashar, deputy head of the the Turkish-based Syrian opposition known as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, commonly referred to as the Syrian National Coalition), August 17, 2019. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

The ENKS is an umbrella group made up of smaller Syrian Kurdish political parties, based in Erbil and ideologically linked to both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

As the current conflict developed in Syria, the YPG came to control Kurdish-majority areas in Syria that Kurds refer to as Rojava. Some Syrian Kurds in Iraq opposed the left-leaning YPG and wanted to join units more closely connected to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the leading party in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Major disagreements between Rojava Peshmerga and the SDF appear to be more of a political issue than a military one. The SDF is generally known as the armed wing of the PYD, while ENKS views itself as the political umbrella of the Rojava Peshmerga. 

The PYD, whose forces battle against Turkish-based Syrian Islamist rebels and al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria, views ENKS as an opponent, in part because it is part of the opposition backed by Ankara known as the Syrian National Coalition.

This competitive relationship between PYD and ENKS has been historically laden with deep mutual suspicion.

As the SDF, US, and Turkey continue to discuss which forces should be present in the proposed buffer zone, the SDF has suggested that local security forces known as the local military councils be used.  

Read More: SDF command reveals details about buffer zone in northeast Syria

This plan is similar to what happened in the city of Manbij when it was liberated from the Islamic State in 2016. YPG and YPJ commanders who were from towns west of the Euphrates such as Hassakeh and Qamishli withdrew, leaving security responsibilities there to local commanders who formed the Manbij Military Council (MMC).

Turkey, however, rejects the use of such local forces, claiming that they are affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which is fighting a decades-long insurgency against Ankara.

As a result, the Turkish-based Syrian opposition instead favors the use of the Rojava Peshmerga. 

Editing by John J. Catherine