Skip to main content
ALM Exclusive

Syrian Kurdish commander says resolve of US-led anti-ISIS coalition weakening

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, SDF chief Mazlum Kobane said the conflict in Gaza has boosted ISIS and warned that the conditions exist for a "resurgence" of the group to its former strength.
Mazloum Kobane, commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), speaks during an interview in the countryside outside the northwestern Syrian city of Hasakah, in the province of the same name, on Jan. 24, 2019.

NORTHEAST SYRIA — Some five years after the collapse of its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria at the hands of the US-led coalition, the Islamic State is making a comeback. Mazlum Kobane, the commander in chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed group that led the war against the Islamic State in Syria, told Al-Monitor during an exclusive interview at a secret location in northeast Syria that the conditions exist for the jihadis to resurge.

Since the start of the year, ISIS has staged two massive attacks in Iran and Russia, killing hundreds of civilians. A branch of ISIS known as the Khorasan group — or ISIS-K, and which was primarily formed to fight in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan — claimed responsibility for the carnage. Alarm bells are sounding as the group threatens to carry back the fight to Europe.

However, with the world’s attention focused on Gaza and Ukraine, the jihadis’ activities elsewhere have largely gone unnoticed.

In Syria, the jihadis have been quietly but determinedly expanding their presence in regime-controlled areas in the Syrian desert where they have killed hundreds of regime soldiers and civilians, notably truffle hunters. The jihadis are attacking their arch foes, the US-backed Kurdish-led SDF, as well. Sleeper cells lurk in the Kurdish-run northeast region of the country, where around 9,000 foreign fighters are being held in prisons. The fighters' wives and children, more than 40,000 of them, are being held in camps that are proving increasingly hard to control. ISIS is plotting to free them and nearly succeeded in a bloody prison break in 2022.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.