US blocking KDP-affiliated peshmerga entering Syria, says KNC

(right to left) KDP-I USA Representative Arash Saleh, KNC foreign relations head Siyamend Haco and KNC leader Ibrahim Biro (far left) in Washington, March 2017, (Twitter)

Representatives from the Syrian Kurdish National Council (KNC), affiliated to Masoud Barzani’s KDP in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, have requested from the US that their fighters be allowed to enter Syria.

The ‘Roj Pesh’ forces, trained by Turkish forces and KDP peshmerga, are currently deployed across Iraq and the Kurdistan region.

Speaking to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency about his first visit to the US, the KNC’s foreign relations head Siyamend Haco said, “In all of our meetings with US officials we raised the issue of the Syrian peshmerga. We have thousands of trained peshmerga in the Kurdish region of Iraq. They have participated in operations against Daesh [IS] in Mosul and Shingal. We requested that the US allow them to come into Syria to fight against Daesh.”

However according to Haco, US officials responded negatively to the request, saying that potential clashes between the peshmerga and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) would be detrimental to the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Haco also said they had complained about the “PYD’s illegal activities in northern Syria” to security officials and that the Syrian Kurdish party was the same as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and therefore “shouldn’t be supported by the US”.

“The most important meetings we had were in the White House with national security officials from the Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon desks. We also met with the president’s special envoy Brett McGurk. He has been to Rojava many times and met with the forces there. McGurk supports the PYD and its politics. He is close to them,” the foreign relations head said.

Last week the KDP-affiliated Syrian peshmerga forces clashed with Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) in the Khanasor neighbourhood of Shingal leading to casualties and injuries on both sides.

The YPG has also rejected the entry of another armed force into the de-facto autonomous region in Syria and said it would lead to internal fighting. The militia has said it would accept the ‘Roj Pesh’ only if it fought under the YPG’s command. However the KNC has refused to recognise the autonomous administration and its institutions, leading to accusations of treachery of both sides.

The US has been tentative in its management of several different forces in Syria and has been careful in not derailing the Wrath of Euphrates Operation to capture Raqqa, the last IS-stronghold in Syria. The operation led by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a 50,000 strong armed force that includes the YPG, is expected to launch its final phase on centre of the Raqqa in the coming weeks.