The U.S. special envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State on Wednesday met with leaders of a council consisting of members from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who plan on administering the Syrian city of Raqqa following the eventual collapse of the ISIS stronghold.
Brett McGurk, who was appointed by the State Department has been serving in the position since 2015, has made a number of trips to Syria and Iraq recently to meet with leadership from the predominately Kurdish fighters who form the bulk of America’s allies on the ground in Syria. He has largely been the face of U.S. foreign policy to the SDF, and his visit coincides with a number of attacks from neighboring Turkey against Kurdish forces allied with the United States.
Turkey recently shelled YPG positions in Syria, and conducted bombing attacks on Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, citing both instances as defensive in nature. Turkey claims the YPG fighters in Syria had fired on Turkey-allied Free Syrian Army fighters, and that the fighters in Iraq were members of the PKK.
The PKK is a Kurdish terrorist organization that has been running a decades-old insurgency just north of the Iraq and Syrian border in Turkey. Tens of thousands have been killed in the fighting. The United States categorizes the PKK as a terrorist group, but insists there is a distinction between the YPG fighters in the SDF and the PKK terrorists operating in Turkey.