Kurdish Combat Role in Syria Could Impact Peace Process

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pressed Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command, on the involvement of Kurdish forces in Syria at an Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday. In the lead up to a US-backed campaign to recapture ISIS’s so-called capital of Raqqa, Syria, McCain said he is worried about “the possibility of an impending conflict between Turkey and the Kurds.” The problem is that US commanders have said the only ground force capable of completing the mission are the Syrian Democratic Forces, which include a large cohort of fighters from the Kurdish YPG, a group Turkey opposes and has bombed. “I foresee a train wreck here,” McCain said. Votel insisted that, “Turkey is a vital partner in this effort. We can’t do what we’re doing without them.” As such, Votel said US forces are planning to attack Raqqa “with majority Arab forces.” Graham insisted, and Votel agreed, that the composition of forces for the assault would have a major impact on the peace process in Syria. “How we take Raqqa can determine the outcome of Geneva,” Graham said.