Despite the odds stacked against them, the Kurdish forces managed to push back the attacks by Islamic State (IS) and other jihadist militias and emerged as the most effective ground force against IS in Syria. The support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces received from the US and the anti-IS coalition allowed them to expand the areas under their control and build a coalition with other ethnic groups in northeast Syria.
That momentum was lost when US president Donald Trump abruptly declared his intention to withdraw American soldiers from Syria in December 2018. Although that withdrawal was delayed, since then, the long-term fate of the entity the Kurds call the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria (NES) has been left in the balance, without a clear future strategy in sight.
Despite their battlefield sacrifices in the war against IS, the ongoing Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria has now pushed the Kurds into a corner. They have been left to choose between accepting the authority of Bashar al-Assad or facing a full-scale invasion by Turkey of the territory they control. They chose a deal with Assad.