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Pentagon floats plan for its Syrian Kurd allies to partner with Assad against ISIS

The proposal, which the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces denounced as a "rotten plan," comes as part of a renewed review of Syria policy by the US State Department.
Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand near a US Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) during a joint military exercise with forces of the US-led "Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve" coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group in the countryside of the town of al-Malikiya (Derik in Kurdish) in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on Sept. 7, 2022.

The Pentagon has floated a plan for its Syrian Kurdish allies in the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) to partner with the Syrian regime, part of a renewed review of the United States’ Syria policy that is currently ongoing at the State Department and for which Turkey, a key NATO ally, has been tapped for its input, according to well-placed sources with knowledge of the deliberations who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition they not be identified by name.

The outlines of the proposed strategy were taken up during a meeting convened by the White House National Security Council (NSC) at the request of the Department of Defense for an Interagency Policy Committee (IPC) bringing together representatives from the State Department, the CIA and other relevant stakeholders, which took place on Jan. 18 at the “sub” or desk officer level, the sources confirmed.

The sources did not elaborate on the substance of the Pentagon’s proposal, noting merely that its purpose was to “protect” the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against ISIS in the medium to long term.

The sources declined to comment on the elephant in the room, which is whether the meetings presage an eventual withdrawal of an estimated 900 US Special Forces currently deployed in northeast Syria, which the Biden administration has repeatedly stated both publicly and in private conversations with the SDF leadership is not in the cards, even as the State Department carries out a fresh review of its Syria policy. To be sure, there are growing indications that a withdrawal may be inevitable if not imminent amid escalating tensions between Iran-backed forces and the United States in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on Israel, analysts say.

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