Rojava Peshmerga ‘urgently need to enter Syrian Kurdistan’

'Roj-pesh' as they are known watch the sun going down, (c) Hikmet Durgun/Sputnik

An official of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Syria has said the Rojava Peshmerga affiliated to the group is trained by NATO and “urgently needs to enter Syrian Kurdistan”.

The reportedly 7,000 strong peshmerga force was formed in 2012 with the support of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Turkey. Recent clashes between the group and Yazidi forces in Shingal, northwestern Iraq, have made the ‘Roj pesh’, as they are known, a point of discussion.

Speaking to Sputnik Turkish, Kawa Azizi, an official of the group said the Rojava Peshmerga were being trained by NATO to fight terrorism.

“These peshmerga [meaning one who faces death] are representing Kurds in Geneva and Astana. The existence of these peshmergas is the existence of Kurds. They urgently need to go to Syrian Kurdistan [northern Syria].

The official added that they were holding meetings with the US and Russia for the peshmerga force to enter Syria. Azizi said the forces was formed of eight battalions and two women’s brigades.

The official’s comments come following clashes between a group of ‘Roj pesh’ troops and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) trained Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) last week, which ended in several casualties and the deepening of an ongoing political crisis between Kurdish parties.

The ‘Roj pesh’, which is said to be a branch of the general Peshmerga Forces in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), were accused of trying to enter Shingal’s Khanasor area on the border with Syria by force. Peshmerga officials have rejected the accusation saying their forces can enter every area in the KRG without permission.

Commentators have evaluated the escalation of violence and tensions in Shingal as a move – as the Mosul and Raqqa operations against the Islamic State (IS) group near to a close – to force the ‘Roj pesh’ into Rojava, the de-facto autonomous region in northern Syria, as an alternative to the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Many have highlighted that the placement of the force in Khanasor comes following KRG President Masoud Barzani’s meetings with Turkish officials. Ankara is a supporter of the KNC – which is a part of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition against the Bashar al-Assad government – and has also participated in training the ‘Roj-pesh’.

According to Turkish media the KNC affiliated peshmerga force could be used in the operation to capture Raqqa. Turkish writer Abdulkadir Selvi, who has close ties to the Erdogan government, recently wrote that the ‘Roj-pesh’ was being prepared by the US as a second line of attack on Raqqa from Iraq.

The YPG, a major component of the Syrian Democratic Force leading the Raqqa operation, has rejected the entrance of a separate Kurdish force into the autonomous administration, warning it could lead to in-fighting between Kurds. The group has also said it views the ‘Roj-Pesh’ as a Turkish proxy and not a friendly force.

The KNC’s refusal to recognise the autonomous administration in Rojava has complicated matters and prevented the ‘Roj-pesh’ from joining the YPG’s umbrella, an offer made by YPG officials.

However the KNC, an umbrella for about 12 parties, has accused the popular Democratic Union Party (PYD) and YPG of monopolising power in the area and not adhering to agreements made between parties. An accusation also levelled at the KNC by the PYD.

Clashes have stopped in Shingal however tensions have not subsided as discussions for a political solution continue.