September 21, 2018 / 10:14 PM
Syrian Kurds, government negotiating over autonomy, professor tells Kurdpress

A University professor at Middle East Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College believes the Kurds in northern Syria and the government in Damascus are in talks over giving autonomy to the Kurdish-controlled northern part of the war-torn country.

Chris Bolan who researches and teaches graduate level courses on U.S. national security, foreign policy, and Middle East security issues told Kurdpress in an interview that there are divided opinions and attitudes in the United States toward a continued U.S. military presence in Syria and predicted that Damascus is planning to retake the control of Idlib province.

What follows is his answers to Kurdpress questions.

Why the U.S wants to go out of Syria? 

There are divided opinions & attitudes in the United States toward a continued U.S. military presence in Syria.  Supporters view these U.S. military forces as essential to advancing the fight against ISIS, to preserving the leverage in political negotiations over Syrian President Assad's future, and to providing a physical barrier to an expanded Iranian military presence in Syria.  Those supporting a withdrawal argue that the military mission to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS in Syria has been largely accomplished and therefore there is no further justification or strategic rationale for a continued US presence.  Supporters of withdrawal also want to avoid dragging the US into another expensive reconstruction program in the region.

Why both U.S and Russia did not support Kurds regarding Turkish invasion of Afrin?

Many in the U.S. national security and defense communities view the Syrian Kurds as essential allies in the fight to dislodge ISIS from its remaining strongholds in Syria.  However, Turkey is a NATO ally and senior officials from both capitals want to avoid a direct military confrontation over US support to the Kurds.  Consequently, both had a shared interest in avoiding a fight over Afrin.

Can Kurds save an autonomous region for themselves based on negotiations with Damascus? 

Eventual accommodation are ongoing -- the degree of autonomy that Kurds will be allow in a reconstituted Syria is the subject of those negotiations.

How do you see the end of the game in Syria?

The most likely next step in the Syrian military campaign will be an effort to retake the Idlib province.  The degree to which Turkey is comfortable with a Syrian advance north is the key strategic question for Damascus and Moscow.  Assuming Assad's success in Idlib and assuming a U.S. withdrawal from northeastern Syria (neither guaranteed), Assad will have effectively restored his control over the country.  However, these military successes do not guarantee political or economic stability.  Militant Islamic groups and others will continue to offer localized resistance to Assad and will conduct sporadic attacks on Syrian security services.  Moreover, the massive damage inflicted on Syria's infrastructure, its economy, and Syrian society itself during the course of the civil war is likely to leave the country fragile, broken, poor and in a perpetual state of disrepair for years to come.

Dr. Chris Bolan is Professor of Middle East Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College where he researches and teaches graduate level courses on U.S. national security, foreign policy, and Middle East security issues.

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