Syrian Democratic Forces

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Syrian Democratic Forces
قوات سوريا الديمقراطية
Quwwāt Sūriyā al-Dīmuqrāṭīya
Hêzên Sûriya Demokratîk
Haylawotho d'Suriya Demoqratoyto

Participant in Syrian Civil War
Flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces
Flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces
Active 10 October 2015 – present
Ideology
Groups
Headquarters Al-Hasakah, Syria
Area of operations Aleppo Governorate
Hasakah Governorate[17]
Al-Raqqah Governorate
Deir ez-Zor Governorate[18]
Strength ~80,000[19] (including 50,000 YPG)[20]
Allies
Opponents
Battles and wars Syrian Civil War

The Syrian Democratic Forces (Kurdish: Hêzên Sûriya Demokratîk‎, Arabic: قوات سوريا الديمقراطية‎; Syriac: Haylawotho d'Suriya Demoqratoyto,‎) commonly abbreviated as SDF or QSD, are an alliance of Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen and Circassian militias fighting against ISIS and Al-Nusra Front in the Syrian Civil War. The goal of the group is "to create a democratic and a bilateral Syria, where true justice is implemented over time." Their goals and military operations are part of the larger Rojava Revolution taking place in northern Syria in which residents are carrying out de facto self-rule based on the principles of democratic confederalism. According to The Economist, the SDF has been described as "essentially a subsidiary of the Kurdish YPG".[35]

The SDF has focused primarily on ISIS,[36] successfully driving them from important strategic areas, such as Shaddadi,[37] Al-Hawl and the Tishrin Dam.[38]

On 10 December 2015, after a two-day conference, it established its political wing, called the Syrian Democratic Council.[39][40]

The Kurds comprise 60% of the SDF members, while non-Kurds make-up around 40% of the SDF.[41]

Establishment

The establishment of the SDF was announced on 11 October 2015 during a press conference in al-Hasakah.[42]

The alliance builds upon the successful Euphrates Volcano joint operations of the Syrian Kurdish YPG and certain factions of the Free Syrian Army, who helped defend the Kurdish town of Kobanî. Euphrates Volcano was later joined by Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa, who participated in the capture of Tell Abyad from the Islamic State. The larger Syrian Democratic Forces alliance also includes forces from the self-administered Jazira Canton, such as the Christian Syriac Military Council and the Arab tribe Al-Sanadid Forces both of whom contributed to combating IS from Al-Hasakah.[43] Although estimates of the size of the SDF's component forces vary significantly, their total number, including the Syrian Arab Coalition and Christian militias may be as high as 55,000.[44]

With a strength of around 4,000 fighters, the Arab groups within the alliance will operate under the joint name Syrian Arab Coalition and is committed to pushing south towards ISIS de facto capital Ar-Raqqah, while staying east of the Euphrates river.[45] Some of the remaining U.S.-Pentagon-trained rebels will also be part of the new forces, tasked with "calling in airstrikes against ISIS and recruiting moderate rebels".[46]

Signatory groups

The following groups signed the founding document:[42]

Additional groups that joined

Since it's establishment, additional groups have joined the SDF.

  • At the end of October 2015, the tribal Liwaa Siqur El-Badiye group joined the SDF to fight ISIL in the southern countryside of Hasakah province.[47]
  • On 15 November 2015, former FSA group Furat Jarablus announced its accession to the Syrian Democratic Forces.[48]
  • On 2 December 2015, the Arab Deir ez-Zor Governorate-based tribe Al-Shaitat joined the SDF, sending fighters to Al-Shaddadah.[49] on 6 January 2016 an additional 400 joined.[50]
  • On 13 January 2016, a group called the Euphrates Martyrs Battalion joined the SDF.[51]
  • On 20 January 2016, a group called the Free Jarabulus Battalion joined the SDF.[52]
  • On 5 February 2016, a group called Martyrs of Dam Brigade from an Arab village called al-Makhmar liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces in the Tishrin Dam offensive joined the Northern Sun Battalion and the SDF.[53]
  • On 28 February 2016, a group called Martyr Kaseem Al Areef Battalion from Sarrin formed and joined the Syrian Democratic Forces through their member Jaysh al-Thuwar[54]
  • On 10 March 2016, a group called Liwa Jund Al Haramayn joined the Syrian Democratic Forces through Jaysh al-Thuwar group the Northern Sun Battalion.[55] They are a former member of the Army of Mujahedeen group called the 19th Division. They operate in Northern Aleppo countryside, also have a presence in Aleppo city and Kobani
  • On 12 March 2016, it was reported that more than 200 locals from the earlier liberated areas around the town of Shaddadi joined the SDF, most of them Arabs.[56]
  • On 18 March 2016, an Arab group called Liwa Ahrar al-Raqqah joined the SDF.[57]
  • On 2 April 2016 the Manbij Military Council was established with the goal to secure the town of Manbij and it's surrounding countryside (Manbij offensive), the YPG and YPJ are not part of this military council. The council also includes a newly established group called the Manbij Turkmen Brigade.[12][58]
  • On 20 May 2016 an additional 225 Al-Shaitat tribesmen joined the SDF[59] Six days later, an additional 75 joined.[60]

Support by the U.S. led alliance

On 12 October 2015, the Pentagon confirmed U.S. C-17 transport aircraft having dropped 100 pallets with 45 tons of arms and ammunition over Northern Syria to benefit "Arab groups." YPG spokesman Polat Can confirmed the airdrop over Rojava, identifying the freight as being "assault rifles, mortars and ammunition, but no TOW anti-tank missiles nor anti-aircraft weapons."[61] However, the main Arab groups within the Syrian Arab Coalition denied that they received the shipment and pointed out that the airdrop may have been intended for their Kurdish allies.[62]

While the weapons are primarily intended for the Arab affiliates turning towards Raqqa, Can reiterated the Kurds' first priority was linking the Kurdish enclave of Afrin with Kobani, thereby clearing the remaining 60 miles of Syria–Turkey border, including the border town of Jarablus, from IS occupation.[61] YPG General commander Sipan Hemo however told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper that an attack on the IS headquarters in ar-Raqqah was expected "within weeks."[63]

The airdrop came only days after The Pentagon had officially abandoned its failed $500m train-and-equip program of "moderate rebels" fighting ISIS.[64] It was mildly criticized by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, who feared "at least a considerable part of these weapons will fall into the terrorists' hands."[65][better source needed]

During the al-Shaddadi offensive, there were US special forces who coordinated airstrikes against ISIL with the SDF.[66]

On 21 May 2016 Gen. Joseph Votel, commanding general of U.S. Central Command, completed a secret several-hour-long trip to northern Syria to visit several locations where there are U.S. special operations forces and meet with local forces the U.S. is helping train to fight ISIS. The visit comes as the first of 250 additional U.S. special operations forces are beginning to arrive in Syria to work with local forces.[67] "We do, absolutely, have to go with what we've got." says the commander who oversees the war in Syria, at the end of a long Saturday spent touring SDF bases.[68]

See also

References

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External links