Fearful of Turkish Assault, Syrian Kurds Look to France For Help

By Fayçal Benhassain | January 3, 2019 | 8:15 PM EST

Syria Democratic Council co-chair Ilham Ahmad. (Photo: Washington Kurdish Institute)

Paris (CNSNews.com) – President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria prompted a Syrian Kurdish leader to visit France recently to call on President Emmanuel Macron to provide protection against the Turkish military once the U.S. has left.

Ilham Ahmad told French television Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to eliminate both ISIS jihadists and Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

Since 2015 U.S. troops have been supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIS. The SDF includes fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Erdogan views the YPG as a terrorist group due to its links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a separatist campaign against the Turkish state for three decades.

“France and NATO have a moral obligation to prevent potential attacks [by Turkey against the Kurds,” said Ahmad, who is a co-chair of the Syria Democratic Council, the political wing of the SDF.

There has been no official French reaction to her appeal yet. France is believed to have some special forces elements on the ground in Syria, although the government has never confirmed that.

Ahmad said France could put pressure on Turkey to stop it threats.

“We are asking the French for diplomatic support to develop dialogue and assure peace and stability in the region,” she added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview Thursday declined to give a timeline for the withdrawal of the 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, saying, “I don’t want to let the adversaries know precisely when it is we’ll be departing.”

He also referred to “the importance of ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds” once the pullout does take place.

In a speech in Istanbul last week, Erdogan said his country would try to eliminate the YPG as well as ISIS fighters in Syria.

Turkey also warned France over its support for the YPG.

“If [French soldiers] stay to protect the YPG, it will not be beneficial for anyone,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters on Christmas Day, adding that it was “no secret” that France supports the group.

During her visit to France, Ahmad also warned that if Turkey attacks the Kurds, the battle against ISIS remnants would be impacted, and “they would scattered everywhere.” It may also be difficult to hold onto already captured ISIS fighters.

Jean-Charles Brisard, president of the Paris-based Center of Analysis of Terrorism, told media outlets that even if all jihadist prisoners being held in northern Syria are not highly dangerous, they do pose a potential terrorist threat to France and Europe.

“There are among them individuals who have in the past threatened France and who are likely to return to Europe to commit attacks,” he said.

Brisard said the best solution would be to bring the captured terrorists back to Europe to put them on trial.

Late last week Kurdish forces also appealed to the Assad regime to deploy its troops in the areas the Kurds control in northern Syria, as protection against a Turkish invasion. The regime sent troops in the town of Manbij, as Kurdish fighters were withdrawing from it.

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