Mar 19 2018

YPG live to fight another day - Expert

"The YPG decided to fight another day" said the Erbil-based political analyst Wladimir van Wilgenburg during a talk with AhvalTV following the capture of Afrin city center. 

The relatively easy Turkish capture of Afrin’s city centre surprised many, who expected the People's Protection Units or YPG the put up a tough fight for the city. Wilgenburg, who visited the much-discussed town of Manbij and other areas in northern Syria recently, told AhvalTV that the YPG had evacuated most civilians from Afrin to northern Aleppo cities including some Shia villages.

“They understood that Afrin was not going to be like Kobane, a war that the international powers were going to intervene to help the Kurds," said Wilgenburg.

In the fall of 2014, Kobane city was attacked by Islamic State fighters, and the anti-ISIS coalition rushed to help the Kurds with air strikes.

"They also realized that if they fought for the city, that the city was going to be completely destroyed,” said the analyst. “So they decided to evacuate. This has nothing to do with the Turkish operation being careful with their air strikes. Because if you look at Turkey's southeast cities like Sirnak, Cizre or Sur, the fight between Turkey and PKK, you'd see a lot of cities heavily destroyed."

Large parts of Diyarbakir's Sur, as well as the south eastern cities of Sirnak and Cizre were destroyed during the fight between the Turkish Army and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Satellite images of the demolished provinces of Şırnak have appeared after 246 days curfew in the city. The images show that almost 70 percent of the city has been demolished during the fighting.

Alexander Clarkson, another specialist on the region, recently told AhvalTV that the Afrin struggle had dispelled the myth around the YPG’s superior fighting skills compared to other regional militias.

Wilgenburg responded that this was a false comparison. “Turkey has one of the biggest NATO armies with its Air Force,” he said. “If there was no air superiority on the Turkish side, this fight could have taken a lot longer. So, I disagree with the notion that the YPG myth is broken, but it's all about the Air Force."

Wilgenburg also disagreed with two prominent Syria experts' (Steven Heydemann and Fabrice Balanche) conclusions that the United States would leave northern Syria soon.

"It is very difficult to say that US forces will leave soon,” he said. “The short term for the U.S. might mean one to three years. But Americans also say they want to leave Afghanistan or Iraq for years, but they are still there. You cannot immediately conclude they'd leave. There are still lots of issues and the civil war is not over in Syria."