““They are more like us; they are just aggressive,” this commander said of the SDF and its Kurdish contingent, the YPG, to me. “A stable group of pragmatic people.” And in the case of the Kurds, pragmatic people who see this conflict as an opportunity to govern themselves. “They want to win,” says the second commander. “You don’t spend your time pushing them into the fight — they want to go into the fight.”
“There is a real desire to be seen as a legitimate partner,” he said of the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian Democratic Forces more broadly. “These people want to do the right thing. They see it as this is their opportunity to change the perception of them.” Indeed, the varying perceptions of Syrian Kurds and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units of the YPG are a source of tension between the State Department and the Pentagon.
For their part, the U.S. special operators see them as partners who never leave a fight. And the mission, they say, doesn’t cost a lot for all that it offers America. “It is not a major investment,” says the second commander. “We have a working partner here and that is a rarity in this part of the world.”
And they say there is one scenario that could turn the situation from dream to nightmare: the U.S. abandons the Syrian Kurds.