Increasing tensions are hurting the relationship between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Arab tribal Syrian Elite Forces (SEF) at a time when both groups are cooperating in the battle for Raqqa. On August 25, seven units from the SEF, whose fighters are largely from Deir Ezzor province, defected
and joined the SDF’s recently-formed Deir Ezzor Military Council
—the coalition of forces that the SDF and the United States are establishing in preparation for the anticipated battle to drive the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) from Deir Ezzor. While the SEF seemingly remains part of the Raqqa operation alongside the SDF, the prospects for the two groups collaborating are bleak. Recent tensions may increase, and, given the small size of the SEF, the tribal force could find itself worse off if it gets pushed out of the battle for Deir Ezzor and loses US support.