Tuesday’s Turkish drone strike on a military base used by the Global Coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria’s Hasakah was likely targeting Mazlum Abdi himself, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander in chief said in an interview.
The drone struck within 500m of the coalition base, Abdi told Al Monitor’s Amberin Zaman. “It’s also a fact that Turkey tried to kill me in the past on several occasions and this is where I am known to carry out my activities,” he said.
SDF intelligence suggests US forces stationed at the joint base were not aware of the attack beforehand, the commander added. “We can say the attack took place despite their presence there,” he said.
Abdi called for a clearer stance from the United States against Turkish aggression, saying Washington had “no strategy beyond fighting ISIS”.
This lack of clarity makes it harder for the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) to negotiate an agreement with Moscow, which is what Russia “naturally” wants, he added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “has chosen war”, Abdi said, instead of reaching an agreement with the Kurdish movement. According to the Syrian Kurdish commander, the Istanbul bombing on 13 November that killed several and injured dozens was “an act of provocation” that the Turkish government planned.
SDF and other Kurdish forces have condemned the attack and denied all involvement. Abdi reiterated the group’s intention to “defend our lands against Turkey”, and said the SDF has “no intention or desire to fight Turkey inside Turkish lands”.
“We have concluded that the attack was perpetrated by Syrian opposition groups operating under Turkey’s control,” Abdi said. “The woman who was arrested for planting the bomb comes from a family linked to the Islamic State. Three of her brothers died fighting for the Islamic State.”
Abdi also repeated previous claims that bombing suspect Ahlam Albashir had a brother who was a commander in a Turkish-backed Syrian group, and that she had married three ISIS fighters over the years.
The SDF commander believes Turkey’s true target in its current offensive is Kobani, the symbolic Kurdish town that was the site of the first decisive victory against ISIS. The town also has strategic significance, Abdi said, as it would “allow Turkey to join Azaz to the areas Turkey seized in October 2019”.
“This does not mean other areas are not facing a risk,” Kurdish journalist Amed Dicle said in a broadcast. “But Turkey first wants to attack Kobani, because it is a symbolic place,” he added. Such an attack or invasion would provide election propaganda for the government, Dicle believes.
“As we understand the United States has given a partial greenlight to such attacks by Turkey,” Dicle said.
The area Turkey struck was “defended from the ground and the air,” he added. “Or it was, until the attack.”
US forces would need to have disabled detection and air defence systems in order for Turkish drones to be able to approach the area, according to Dicle.
“Oil wells, wheat silos have been under attack, which tells us that Turkey has been systemically targeting the economic infrastructure in the region. They attack the dam and power station,” Dicle said. “It must be stressed that oil wells would not be attacked if Turkey did not have significant international support. This could be considered another sign of an international consensus.”