SDF commander says Trump did not object to deal with Syrian gov't

Mazloum Abdi also denies reports the SDF was handing control of their areas over to Syrian government forces.

    Mazloum Abdi, SDF commander-in-chief, said Trump did not object to his group's deal with Syrian government [File: Rodi Said/Reuters]
    Mazloum Abdi, SDF commander-in-chief, said Trump did not object to his group's deal with Syrian government [File: Rodi Said/Reuters]

    Donald Trump, the president of the United States, did not object to an agreement between Kurdish-led forces and the Syrian government to stave off Turkey's cross-border offensive in northeast Syria, according to a senior Kurdish official.

    Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made the comment in an interview broadcast on Kurdish-language Ronahi TV on Wednesday.

    Abdi, who said he had a phone call with the US president, said Russia would guarantee the SDF's agreement with Damascus. 

    The Syria-Kurd deal, announced on Sunday, came days after Turkey launched an assault against the Kurdish fighters, which it considers "terrorists". Ankara said the operation was also aimed at creating a "safe zone" to resettle Syrian refugees.  

    Abdi, whose forces were Washington's main Syrian ally in the battle against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, or ISIS), has previously said the SDF was forced to turn to Damascus because of Trump's decision to pull US troops from the region.

    The agreement has shifted the balance of power in the region with Syrian government troops entering the strategic city of Manbij. Russia said its forces were patrolling front lines between the Turkish-allied forces and the Syrian army positions outside the city to prevent a confrontation.

    On Wednesday, Syrian troops also entered the northern town of Kobane or Ain al-Arab, where Kurdish and US forces had first defeated ISIL fighters more than four years ago.

    Abdi told Rohani the agreement with President Bashar al-Assad's government requires the Syrian army to deploy across the entire northeast border with Turkey. However, he denied reports that the SDF was handing control of their areas over to the Syrian government forces. 

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    He said the deal would pave the way for a political solution that guaranteed Kurdish rights in Syria.

    Analysts, however, have told Al Jazeera that any agreement would be "costly" to the Kurds as Assad was unlikely to allow the Kurdish-led administration in northeast Syria to maintain autonomy over the region. Exact details of the deal between the Kurds and the Syrian government are not clear. 

    Trump, meanwhile, has faced criticism at home and abroad for withdrawing US troops from the northeast portion of Syria last week. 

    During a news conference at the White House on Wednesday, Trump doubled-down on his decision, calling the withdrawal "strategically brilliant".

    "Turkey has gone into Syria. If Turkey goes into Syria, that's between Turkey and Syria - it's not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like you to believe," he said. 

    Separately, Abdi said operations against ISIL had been paused in light of the Turkish military offensive.

    "We have frozen all our actions against Daesh,"  he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.

    However, the SDF would continue to be in charge of roughly 12,000 suspected ISIL fighters imprisoned in northern Syria, he said. 

    Kurdish leaders have previously said that the Turkish offensive could compromise their ability to adequately hold thousands of foreign ISIL fighters and their families, and have pleaded with governments to take their citizens back.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies