On Thursday, a senior Syrian Kurdish official was in Washington and met with US officials who told her that the US would continue its military presence in eastern Syria.
“Recently, everybody thought the United States would withdraw but they were clearly saying they would stay as long as the Islamic State presence persisted,” Ilham Ahmed told Reuters.
Ahmed is a leader of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who the US support in eastern Syria.
The US uses ISIS as an excuse to stay in Syria, but its occupation and support for the SDF is part of the broader campaign against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Most of Syria’s oil fields are in the region of Syria where the US has its presence, and the occupation keeps the vital resource out of the hands of Damascus.
On top of the military presence, the US maintains crippling economic sanctions on Syria that specifically target the energy and construction sectors, making it difficult for the country to rebuild. Last week, after Jordan reopened its border in Syria, the State Department said the US has no plans to normalize or improve relations with Damascus.
Ahmed signaled that the SDF might be open to talks with the Syrian government. “Countries like Russia also made preparations to assist for a healthier dialogue with the Syrian regime,” she said. The SDF has previously warned Washington that it could join forces with Assad if the US pulls its troops out of Syria.