AL-OMAR OIL FIELD, Syria — After a bloody and protracted five-year war, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led coalition are on the verge of declaring victory against the Islamic State after the fall of its last crumbs of territory in Baghuz. With Islamic State cells continuing to operate to deadly effect in Syria and neighboring Iraq, it's too early to say "mission accomplished," cautioned Mazlum Kobane, the commander in chief of the SDF, in an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor March 10 at a heavily guarded complex near al-Omar oil field in eastern Syria. The charismatic 50-year-old Syrian Kurd, whom coalition officials address as “general,” is seen as one of the chief architects of the battle against the jihadis.
US diplomats and officers of all ranks who have worked with him for the past four and a half years are full of praise for Kobane, whose nom de guerre was Sahin Cilo when he was a militant in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK, which has been fighting Turkey for Kurdish independence, and now autonomy, since 1984, is on the US State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Turkey likes to remind Washington of this irony, and it's the reason why Kobane is unlikely to be rewarded for his prowess on US soil anytime soon. His real name is Ferhat Abdi Sahin and he is on Turkey's list of most wanted terrorists.