Senior US-Backed Syrian Fighter Defects to Turkey

Surprise Defection Comes Amid Mounting Kurd-Arab Tensions

The US-backed Kurdish-dominated forces in northeast Syria had a surprise loss today, when Brig. Gen. Talal Silo, one of their few high-ranking non-Kurdish commanders, defected to Turkey.

Maj. Gen. Silo often served as a key SDF spokesman

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have always been a vast majority Kurdish YPG fighters, but the small Arab allies within the group have long been emphasized, primarily to try to spin them ot Turkey as something other than a Kurdish faction.

In practice, the Kurds have been calling the shots, and that’s repeatedly led to tensions with their smaller Arab allies, who sometimes feel their goals aren’t being given enough consideration. It’s not clear if that’s what provoked this particular defection, but it certainly underscores those mounting fault-lines within the group.

No one in the US or Turkey is yet commenting on Silo’s specific status, but it’s likely that Silo will be able to provide substantial intelligence on the Kurdish YPG to Turkish forces. Given Turkey’s long-standing interest in picking a fight with the Kurds, they may see this as an opportunity to catch them off-guard.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.