RAQQA, Syria — Mazlum Kobane is the chief commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and, as such, the chief interlocutor of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS). The 45-year-old commander, widely known as Gen. Mazlum, is at the helm of the campaign to retake Raqqa, the self-styled capital of IS, which is in its final stages. Kobane, who displays an avid interest in politics beyond his military skills, has earned himself fame in Washington, where his name is frequently mentioned at various panels.
Coalition officials who know Kobane are full of praise for the SDF commander, who has been in close contact with Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy to the anti-IS coalition, and US military commanders, much to the frustration of Ankara, which insists he belongs to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). According to some coalition officials, Kobane is acting independently from the PKK — which is listed as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States — and might even turn his back completely on the group down the road.