The capture of the city of Raqqa from Daesh terrorists last week was a major development in the conflict in Syria. However, operations in this city and its aftermath have left important questions that need to be worked on in the coming days. The day after, the Raqqa plan will be one of the most significant aspects of this new state of affairs. The administration of the city and its reconstruction will be critical for the future of the city. To provide stabilization in the city and its surroundings, clear steps should immediately be taken. Although there are some plans laid out about the future running of the city, there is still a lot of ambiguity about what will happen to the city after the operations.
The YPG’s position in the aftermath of the retake of Raqqa means the threat for the security of region’s people is not over yet
The political dimension of post-Daesh Raqqa is a critical dimension that will be a determining factor in this sphere. First, a statement made by PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) members in front of posters of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK terrorist group, raises some important questions. Of course, the scene in Raqqa once again reaffirms the undeniable link between the YPG and the PKK, which was arbitrarily denied by U.S. officials to be able to help this group. The rally of YPG members in Raqqa demonstrates that the expectations of the YPG in post-conflict Syria reached a certain height and the YPG is preparing for negotiations to gain more power and leverage in the future Syria. Of course these projections will also generate further problems between Turkey and the U.S. The outcome of the Raqqa operation is considered by large segments of the population in Turkey as an exchange of territory from one terrorist organization to another. And the show of force of a terror group under the protection of the international coalition is something difficult to understand for Turkish people.
Secondly, considering the YPG’s activities in other Arab populated areas, such as Tal Abyad, after their capture of the cities there, it would not be wrong to express the concern of the local population about the actions of YPG members. Prior to the operations, these concerns were expressed by the local population in the region. To have such a show of force by a group accused of ethnic cleansing in earlier periods against Arab and Turkmens in a wholly Arab populated region also paves the way for potential conflicts in the region among different groups. That such a confrontation hasn’t happen is not a guarantee of social stability and harmony.
Finally, it will be important to recall that operations in the region target the Daesh terrorist organization, mainly to eradicate this terrorist group. However, territorial withdrawal by Daesh members does not mean an end to activities by this terrorist organization. The fight against Daesh may change in form and technique; however, it has to continue in the coming years. Just like in the case of terror groups in Iraq, these forms of groups become a dormant threat once they are defeated on the battleground. Furthermore, international outreach by Daesh makes it a more serious threat. Considering these risks, there should be a comprehensive approach to stop this threat. Taking into account all these risks, the operation in Raqqa should be evaluated and the future path for the city needs to be assessed carefully to provide safety and security for its people.
This article was first published in Daily Sabah on October 23, 2017.