According to a senior YPG official who spoke on the matter yesterday (Thursday), Kurdish commanders have drawn up plans to link the Kurdish-held cities of Hasakah & Kobane with the western Efrin enclave in northwestern Syria. However, for this to happen, Kurdish fighters must cross around 100 kilometers of hostile lands held by various Islamist factions along the Syrian-Turkish border. Meanwhile, both the Turkish Government and Syrian Government have different ideas for the region.

Over the past year, the People’s Protections Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been advancing quickly along the Syrian-Turkish border. While not only breaking the siege on Kobane, Kurdish fighters have also cleared Hasakah city and advanced as far as Tishreen west of the Euphrates River.

Since late 2015, Kurdish fighters have also engaged in sporadic clashes with Islamist fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army on the outskirts of Azaz city. While several rebel-held villages have already been captured by Kurdish forces, the main goal of theses clashes seem to be the attempted capture of Azaz city and Menagh Airbase which is located close by.

Remarkably, this somewhat pre-planned offensive could deprive ISIS militants of a logistical route from Turkey that has been used by the Islamic State to bring in supplies and foreign recruits. If Kurdish fighters are able to capture Azaz, Jarabulus and the villages inbetween, this would effectively unite Kurdish forces across Syria.

While US military commanders unofficially back the Kurdish plans, their Turkish NATO ally firmly underlines it will not allow the Syrian Kurds to move west of the Euphrates. Separately, the Syrian Arab Army, aided by Russian air strikes, are edging closer to the ISIS-held stronghold of al-Bab which would interfere with Kurdish regional plans.

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However, the political party affiliated with the YPG, the PYD, has been excluded from upcoming peace negotiations in Geneva. Meanwhile, the PKK, YPG and PYD say their exclusion undermines the peace process while the aforementioned groups simultaneously blames Turkey for obstructing the peace talks.

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Student currently living in Denmark. Special focus on news from Syria, MENA map-making and strategical military analysis.

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