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The SDF’s Post-American Future

Why the Syrian Kurds Must Make a Deal With Assad

General Chiya (L) of the SDF speaks with U.S. Army Lieutenant General Paul Funk in Syria's Euphrates Valley, July 2018. Reuters

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed militia led by the Kurdish-majority People’s Protection Units (YPG), is now involved in a high-stakes geopolitical standoff involving the world’s two strongest military powers, Russia and the United States. The SDF has spearheaded the U.S. war against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, but as that war has slowed down following the near territorial defeat of ISIS, hard questions about the group’s future have been brought into focus. The SDF must now consider how to prepare for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces, the likely victory of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war, and continued antagonism with neighboring Turkey. And although the answers to these questions have yet to be determined, the basic fact is that the SDF, surrounded by hostile adversaries, has a real interest in reaching a modus vivendi with

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