The American troops were detained during a confrontation between Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Kurdish YPG/ PKK militias in the embattled Syrian Deir ez-Zor province in September this year, sources told Anadolu agency on condition of anonymity. The talks to retrieve the soldiers started in late September.
In exchange for the troops, extremists pressed the Kurds to withdraw from several oil wells and allow food and medical supplies to some locations. After YPG/ PKK militias left the oil wells, they got the American soldiers.
Washington, however, has denied that it took part in the swap. “The coalition is not involved in any deal with ISIS,” said US Colonel Sean Ryan, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
The reported deal would not be the first one made between Kurdish militia and IS. Back in 2017 they agreed to allow 250 IS fighters and 3,500 of their family members to escape the besieged Raqqa in Syria. The deal was defended by the US, with Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon saying that it was part of a “local solution to a local issue.” The US move was slammed by then Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim as “shocking.”
Turkey has been frustrated with Washington’s support for the YPG militia, which Ankara sees as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) it considers terrorist. Earlier in September Ankara told the US that Kurdish militants must completely abandon Syria.
Yet the US easily abandoned their Kurdish allies in the past when it seemed convenient for the White House. During the Turkish military operation in Afrin that took place in January-March this year Kurds repeatedly accused Washington of double standards after it did nothing to protect Afrin from what they called “Turkish occupation.”
This summer Kurds were seen to be left out in the cold after Ankara and Washington agreed on details of a withdrawal of Kurdish militia from northern Syria.
The US military has been engaged in Syria since September 2014, working with some militias to fight terrorists. Deir ez-Zor province where those seven soldiers were allegedly captured is one of the zones of the US-led operation. IS is controlling large parts of Deir ez-Zor’s territory.