When the Syrian civil war started in 2011, the PYD/PKK -- which imposes its rule through the use of violence and intimidation -- was active only in the center of Hasakah province and the town of Afrin in Aleppo on the border with Turkey.
It had not yet established, however, its complete domination over either region.
In mid-2015, the PYD/PKK gained ground in Hasakah -- at the expense of the Daesh terrorist group -- as a result of joint operations with the Assad regime, eventually establishing control over most of the province.
The center of Hasakah is almost evenly divided between Arabs and Kurds. The province’s eastern and northern countryside, however, is populated almost entirely by Kurds, while its western and southern countryside is almost exclusively populated by Arabs.
But in early 2016, the PYD/PKK -- with Russian support -- began making inroads on majority-Arab regions outside Afrin toward the Azaz-Jarabulus line.
Before mid-2015, when the group captured the city of Kobani in Aleppo, the PYD/PKK’s presence in the city was limited. Meanwhile, it had almost no influence at all in the Tel Abyad district of Raqqa province and Aleppo’s Manbij district west of the Euphrates.
- Historical chance
The emergence of Daesh in 2014 posed a historical chance for the PYD/PKK, which wanted to consolidate its territory along Turkey’s border and break the geographical link between Turkey and Syria.
In this regard, it had the Assad regime’s support in certain areas, while also enjoying considerable U.S. backing, resulting in its rapid spread in the region.
As Daesh began to withdraw from majority-Arab parts of northern Syria, the PYD/PKK was quick to fill the vacuum.
The center of Kobani -- along with a number of villages on its outskirts -- is populated mainly by Kurds. In the district’s western, southern and eastern countryside, however, Arab populations dominate.
Tel Abyad, meanwhile, is populated mainly by Arab tribes and Turkmen communities.
The PYD/PKK managed to co-opt some Arab groups in Tel Abyad (mainly by giving them arms and money), while carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against local Turkmen communities -- practices that have been confirmed by international rights organizations.
After seizing Kobani and Tel Abyad and reaching the Euphrates, the PYD/PKK hoped to cross to the west of the river with the aim of uniting all regions of northern Syria under its control.
On Aug. 12 of this year, the PYD/PKK -- with the help of intense U.S. air support -- also managed to seize the Arab/Turkmen-majority Manbij district.
The group is now attempting to conceal its true aims under the guise of the "Syrian Democratic Forces", which pretends to be an "umbrella organization" representing different ethnic groups.