Risking displeasure from ally Turkey, the United States announced it would arm Kurdish fighter earlier this week to assist it in its fighting in Syria against ISIS. One day after the announcement, the Kurdish force captured Tabqua and are preparing to take Raqqua, another ISIS stronghold.
The Kurdish force is the only force that has become acceptable to both the United States and the Assad Syrian government. Most of the forces fighting ISIS are ones that seek to overthrow Assad’s Baathist government. The YPG, the formal name of the Syrian militia, has broader goals than Syria and are fighting in the hopes of a future Kurdish state. That places them at odds with Turkey and many Arab governments.
Ethnically related to Iranians, the Kurds have never had a state of their own despite a global population of about 30 million stretching across Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, in addition to Syria. The PKK, a Marxist and Kurdish group operating in Turkey, has been accused by the Turkish government of regularly engaging in terrorist activities against the government. The YPG is an offshoot of the political party representing Kurds in the Syrian government and was formed in 2004. Turkey considers the YPG and the PKK to be part of a single, larger group.
The YPG has stated that its goal is a decentralized Syria that remains cohesive, but that allows more autonomy to individual regions.
ISIS is now weakened and vulnerable in fighting both in Iraq and Syria. Although, far from defeated, questions about political rule after the conflict ends are beginning to rise closer to the surface, worrying Arab leaders who remain opposed to a Kurdish state.