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Syrian Democratic Forces: We focus on battling Syrian opposition not regime

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters carry their weapons in a village on the outskirts of al-Shadadi town, Hasaka countryside, Syria 19 February, 2016 [Rodi Said/Reuters]
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters carry their weapons in a village on the outskirts of al-Shadadi town, Hasaka countryside, Syria [Rodi Said/Reuters]

As the fight against Daesh in Syria draws closer to its end, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seek to avoid conflict with the Syrian regime and instead confront opposition groups in the country, according to SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali.

In an interview with news agency Syria Direct, published on Tuesday, Bali said that after Daesh is defeated, the Kurdish-led group would proceed with their aim to protect the self-governing regions in northern Syria that the SDF has carved out since the start of the civil war.

“The SDF’s job is not just [to liberate] these cities, but also to continue protecting them and to protect security and stability.”

Despite some skirmishes with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Bali claims that the SDF’s role is now defined by its fight against other opposition groups in the country, equating them to Daesh militants.

“We also try to avoid opening additional fronts, because our focus right now is on fighting terrorism, including Daesh, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham and other terrorist factions like them. So we do what we can to avoid conflict [with the regime].”

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The group is inspired by Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and rejects the traditional concept of a nation-state and instead proposes a federal system in which decision-making power is left to local communities.

“The SDF is a legitimate army for the Federation of Northern Syria. Since federalism is a political project that is ongoing and can be disseminated across all of Syria, the SDF, too, will be an ongoing [presence].”

Kurdish militias have been accused of numerous human rights violations, including the seizing of residents’ property, the killing of civilians and torture. A report released today by the Syrian Human Rights Network found that Kurdish forces killed 15 civilians, including seven women, in October alone.

In recent months, the SDF have taken control of many provinces, including Raqqa, as part of the fight against Daesh, with Western backing, and implemented the self-administration model in the constituencies they rule.

The US has also been providing military aid to Kurdish militia groups, considering them crucial in the battle against Daesh. However the SDF’s future plans are likely to prove contentious with Turkey, which has designated the PKK a terrorist group, and Iran, which has allied with the Assad regime and fears greater disruption on their borders should the Kurds create a new state.

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