SDF commander says he is communicating with new U.S. Syria team—but the team has not been appointed yet

General Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)

General Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)

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General Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said that communication is underway with the Syria team in the new U.S. administration, while the U.S. Department of State said that the team has not been formed yet.

In an interview with Al-Hadath TV, on January 30, Abdi said that he is optimistic about the new administration and hopes that it will pursue a more realistic policy regarding the Syrian affair.

“We are communicating with the new administration’s Syria team, but the joint programs have not so far materialized,” Abdi said.

For its part, the U.S. Department of State has confirmed to Enab Baladi that no team has been appointed to lead the U.S. engagement in Syria yet. However, the team is due to be formed in the upcoming days, or weeks.

The new U.S. Administration was clearly preoccupied with domestic issues over the first few days, a source of the State Department replied to Enab Baladi’s request for details regarding the said team.

“We do not know with whom General Abdi has communicated; he might have contacted White House officials who are not overseeing the Syria file,” the source, informed of the U.S. Syria policy, added on the condition of anonymity.

A second U.S. official told Enab Baladi that the new administration will make its appointments shortly.

“In the meantime, we remain in touch with our partners in northeast Syria during the transition, and career officials are filling positions on an acting basis until the new administration announces its appointments,” the source added.

Diplomat James Jeffrey was the former President Donald Trump’s administration’s Special Envoy for Syria.

In November 2020,  Jeffrey stepped down from the two positions that he held under Trump’s tenure: Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Joel Rayburn was assigned U.S. Special Envoy to the coalition and engagement in Syria. He left his post a few days before Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Recently, Biden has named senior U.S. diplomat Brett McGurk as his White House coordinator for the Middle East.

General Abdi maintained fine relations with the former US administration. In a 2019 call, former President Donald Trump said that he “really enjoyed” talking to Abdi and was looking forward to seeing him soon.

Back then, a group of senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that he expedite a visa for General Mazloum Abdi, “to discuss the path forward in deescalating conflict in Syria and the path forward in the fight against ISIS.”

On the other hand, General Abdi is not received as warmly by Turkey, for Ankara has designated him on the “red list” as a former fighter of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), itself designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU.

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