Heated Conflict or Consolidation of the Status Quo in Northeast Syria: What is next for the AANES ?

Abstract: Following the presidential elections held in Syria in May 2021, the PYD-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) has witnessed protests in the territories under its control. The deteriorating economic living standards coupled with the Syrian Democratic Forces’ forced military conscription led people to organize protests, especially in the Arab-populated areas. As the grim living standards and security problems in Northeast Syria are unlikely to be reversed anytime soon, the AANES’s Arab populated areas are likely to witness tribal resistance provoked by the Syrian regime. By considering the unfolding developments in the AANES areas and the ever-changing dynamics among different actors on the ground in Northeast Syria, this expert brief presents some possible political and security scenarios that the AANES is likely to cope with in the forthcoming period. 


The areas governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), chiefly led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), have been witnessing turbulent times politically and economically for quite some time. The grim situation on the ground was specifically exacerbated after the Syrian presidential elections which took place in May 2021. Following the presidential elections, which was called a sham[i] by different opposing entities, protests broke out in different parts of the AANES, including the Arab populated areas that have been a weak spot for the administration for years now. In Arab-populated areas, such as Shaddadi[ii] and Manbij, people died[iii] after Asayish, the AANES’s internal security force, intervened in the protests. It is known that the protestors took to the streets especially due to the dire economic living standards and the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) forced military conscription which has been in place ever since 2014.

As the reality in Northeast Syria becomes more desperate, different actors partaking in the Syrian conflict are aiming to reshape the country’s political, military, and security situation. While Syria’s political status quo is currently expected to continue in the coming period, the country’s security and military atmosphere is increasingly unclear. As for the scenarios concerning the future of the AANES, it can be said that the situation is more complicated than the rest of Syria given the fact that different actors have an eye on it.