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‘Damascus is looking stronger than ever’: What next for Syria since Kurds join forces with Assad?

Since U.S. forces withdrew from the north-eastern Syrian town of Manbij on Tuesday – a week later President Donald Trump declared he was pulling American forces from this war-torn nation – Syrian military units loyal to President Bashar Assad moved in.

This had been the very first time in seven years that Syria’s government was in Manbij, that was captured by anti-government rebels at 2012, then Islamic State in 2014 and subsequently, in 2016, free from the U.S.-backed Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) following two decades of damn jihadist rule.

“The battle is unequal. Turkey has airplanes. It’s capable of performing airstrikes, along with the army here does not possess this capacity. Therefore it is logical they needed to create an ally,” states Robin Fleming, researcher in the Rojava Information Centre, who’s located in Qamishli, 300 kilometers to the east.

Nonetheless, it remains an uncomfortable alliance. Syria’s Kurds didn’t involve regime change from the first days of the civil war, and so were accused of undermining with Assad in return for freedom in northern Syria. They have that freedom, the Kurds seem to have given it off.

We have not seen it has changed a good deal on the floor. Mostly it’s simply that the Syrian military and the SDF are fighting especially in Manbij, but all the administrative and social institutions are at the control of the autonomous government.”

Additionally, Syrians are fighting on the opposite side of this battle, together with the Free Syrian Army, which fought with the Assad government in the first days of this Syrian civil war before being calmed by militant jihadi groups like the al-Nusra Front and IS, backing the Turkish invasion.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to rid northern Syria of all Kurdish militias like the Peoples Protection Units (YPG), that have connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the team which has spanned a four years battle against the Turkish nation.

Turkey’s invasion has triggered international outcry, from France and the UK in addition to by U.S. President Donald Trump, who’s called for a ceasefire and implied a trade deal between Ankara and Washington might be derailed unless the invasion has been stopped.

However, for most Turks, an offensive in northern Syria and claims from Erdoğan to resettle 3.6 million Syrian refugees from the so-called secure zone, is still welcome.

“It’s cost them much and it’ll cost them much more with all the sanctions,” explained Dareen Khalifa, in the think tank and NGO International Crisis Group. “They require a political win and they require a military success. I think what folks are overlooking is that this is a really common war in Turkey.”

“My perception is this is a pathway towards a conclusion game in Syria [and] it’s the regime which is going to be the largest beneficiary,” he explained.