The Syrian Democratic Forces Chief Just Called Me. Here’s What He Said.


October 7, 2019

“This is going to jeopardize all the achievements we’ve made with the coalition against ISIS,” said Mazlum Abdi.

Of all the post-9/11 conflicts, the one story of uninterrupted fragile, real, and endangered progress the United States has achieved is in northern Syria. Now comes the U.S. decision that could allow Turkey to launch an offensive in northeastern Syria. This would leave those who fought in partnership with America and against ISIS for the past five years sitting in the crosshairs, as Syrians await the promised Turkish military campaign aimed directly at them.

On Monday, I spoke by phone to Mazlum Abdi, the commander of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, whose cemeteries sit full of white marble tombstones honoring young people who perished in the ISIS fight.

“Honestly, we were surprised by this decision because the security mechanism was ongoing and it was working and we did our best,” said Abdi, referring to an August 2019 security agreement the U.S. established with Turkey to assuage its concerns about SDF’s proximity to its border. “We did everything on our end to help this succeed.”

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