EXCLUSIVE: Why the Turks, Russians and Assad cannot get all Kurdish forces to pull out from the so-called buffer zone

29 October 2019 By Paul Martin

And that is newsworthy and very significant, but will probably be missed by breathless foreign reporters who have been misled by Turkey’s and Russia’s deliberately ambiguous pronouncements about the on-the-ground realities.

There had been an international announcement from a much-publicised summit in the Russian city of Sochi [scene of another spectacular propaganda coup for President Vladimir Putin, the Olympic Winter Games in 2014]. Under the much-trumpeted agreement, today is supposed to be the deadline for Syrian Kurdish fighters to withdraw.

That should leave a strip of territory 30 kilometres wide in the control of joint Russian and Syrian government joint patrols.

But inside Qamishli today, locals report that all the checkpoints are manned by Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters, and all prisons holding captured ISIS fighters will continue to be guarded by Syrian Kurdish forces.

It is only on the border itself, to the north of the city, that joint Russian-Syrian-regime patrols have got underway. There is also a pocket of Syrian-regime forces in one suburban part of Qamishli, and at the airport. But this has been the situation for years.

The YPG commander, General Masloum, has refused to accept full Syrian-regime and Russian control of the Strip, and insists too on the immediate withdrawal of Turkish forces that have penetrated a small part of the zone, mainly via their proxies, a militant Islamist brigade.

“Masloum has indeed withdrawn his forces’ heavy guns and soldiers from the actual border and very close to it, and pulled 30 kilometres south,” a well-informed source told correspondent.com by WhatsApp. “But our forces remain in control of internal security here.”

My source in Qamishli says this has all happened through behind-the-scenes negotiations. The only fighting expected in the coming days is in the small pocked around Al-Ain, which the Turks continue to bombard, though without using air support.

The Syrian Kurds believe the Russians and the Syrian regime have accepted a “compromise” because the USA has altered its own pullout policy.

Certainly President Donald Trump’s announcement that the USA will “control” the oilfields in north-eastern Syria has made a strategic difference.

Trump has indicated the oil revenue will be used to bolster the Syrian Kurdish forces, and enable them to continue holding ISIS male prisoners and, separately, their wives and children.

Earlier this year, according to other sources, the USA handed the Kurds 300 million dollars, and more is being negotiated.

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