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Syrian Democratic Forces

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Syrian Democratic Forces

‫قوات سوريا الديمقراطية‬


Hêzên Sûriya Demokratîk
‫ܚܝܠܘܬܐ‬
̈ ‫ܕܝܡܩܪܛܝܬܐ ܕܣܘܪܝܐ‬
Participant in the Syrian Civil War

Flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces

Active 10 October 2015 – present

Ideology Democracy, federalism, secularism, Democratic

Confederalism

Allegiance Democratic Federation of Northern Syria

Groups Notable groups based in all of Rojava

 People's Protection Units (YPG)

 YPG International Battalion[1][2]

 Women's Protection Units (YPJ)

 Anti-Terror Units (part of YPG & YPJ)

 Seljuk Brigade
 Hammam Turkmen Martyrs Brigade

Notable groups based in Jazira

Canton & Deir ez-Zor Governorate

 Syriac Military Council (MFS)

 Bethnahrain Women's Protection


Forces[3][4]

 Khabour Guards[5]

 Nattoreh[5]

 Shammar tribe militias[6]

 Al-Sanadid[6]

 al-Shaitat tribe militias[7][8]

 Desert Hawks Brigade[7][8]

 Elite Forces (unclear)[9]

 Saadallah al-Jabiri Battalion[10]

 Free Officers Union (unclear)[11][12][13]

 Al-Baggara tribe militias

 Harabiyya tribe militias[14]

 Zubayd tribe militias[15]

 Deir ez-Zor Military Council[16]

 Gathering of al-Baggara Youth

 Martyr Amara Arab Women's


Battalion[17][18]

Notable groups based in Kobanî Canton

 Tell Abyad Revolutionaries Brigade[19]

 Liberation Brigade[20][21]

 Army of Revolutionaries

 Martyr Qasim Areef Battalion[22]

 Jazeera Knights Brigade[23]

Notable groups based in the Afrin Canton,

western Shahba region, & Aleppo


city (including Sheikh Maqsood)
 Army of Revolutionaries

 Jabhat al-Akrad

 Shahba Women's Front[24]

 Tel Rifaat Revolutionaries


Battalion[25]

 Division 30 remnants[26]

 Homs Commandos Brigade

 99th Infantry Brigade

 455th Special Tasks Brigade

 Tribal Forces[27]

 Northern Democratic Brigade[28]

 Shahba Forces[29]

 Battalion of Karachok Martyrs[30]

 Revolutionary Forces[31]

Notable groups based in the eastern Shahba

region

 Manbij Military Council

 Northern Sun Battalion

 Manbij Revolutionaries Battalion

 Al-Bab Military Council

 Al-Bab Military Council Female


Battalion[32]

 Jarabulus Military Council[33]

Notable groups based in the Raqqa

District & Al-Thawrah District

 Liwa Ahrar al-Raqqa

 Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa

 Generous Raqqa Battalion[34]

 Raqqa Hawks Brigade[35]

 Martyr Tasleem Jimmo Brigade[36]

 Ghanim group[37]
 Raqqa Martyrs Brigade[35]

 Liwa Owais al-Qorani remnants[38]

 Ajeel tribe militias[39]

 Free Raqqa Brigade

 Free Tabqa Brigade[40]

 Umanaa al-Raqqa Brigade

 Harun al-Rashid Brigade

Leaders SDF Spokesman: Talal Silo[20]

SDF Spokeswoman: Jihan Sheikh Ahmed[41]

Political: Syrian Democratic Council

Headquarters Qamishli (capital city)[42]

Area of
Northern Syria
operations

 Aleppo Governorate

 Hasakah Governorate[43]

 Raqqa Governorate

 Deir ez-Zor Governorate[44]

Size
50,000 (as of October 2017)[45] – 80,000+

fighters (23,000 to 25,000 of these being

Arabs)[46][47] (as of May 2017)

 36,000 YPG[48]

 24,000 YPJ[48]

 Several thousand from other exclusive &


mixed groups

Allies  United States[49][50][51][52]

 France[53][54]

 Russia[55][56][57][58][59][60]

 United Arab Emirates[61][62]

 Egypt[61]

 Czech Republic[63]
 United Kingdom (allegedly)[64][65]
 Patriotic Union of Kurdistan[66]

 Kurdistan Workers' Party

 International Freedom Battalion[67][68]

Rojava police forces

 Asayish[69]

o SWAT Units (HAT)[70]

 Sutoro[71]

o Bethnahrain Women's Protection Forces police

branch

 Raqqa Internal Security Forces[72]

o Quick Reaction Force unit[73]

Rojava civilian defence forces

 Self-Defense Forces (HXP)[74]

o Special Forces[75]

 Civilian Defense Force (HPC)[76]

Syrian Border Security Force(BSF)[77][78]

Opponents Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[79]

 Turkey-backed rebel groups

 al-Qaeda affiliates

o Tahrir al-Sham

 Turkey[80]

 Syrian Army (minor clashes)[81]

Battles and
Syrian Civil War
wars

 Battle of Aleppo[82]

 Syrian Kurdish–Islamist conflict[83]

 Al-Hawl offensive[84]

 Tishrin Dam offensive

 Northern Aleppo offensive (February


2016)

 Al-Shaddadi offensive (2016)


 Battle of Tell Abyad (2016)

 Northern Raqqa offensive (May 2016)

 2016 Aleppo campaign

 Manbij offensive (2016)

 Battle of al-Hasakah (2016)

 Jarabulus offensive (2016)

 Western al-Bab offensive (September


2016)

 Western al-Bab offensive (October–


November 2016)

 Battle of al-Bab

 Raqqa offensive (2016–2017)

 Battle of Tabqa Dam (2017)

 Battle of Raqqa (2017)

 Deir ez-Zor offensive

The Syrian Democratic Forces (Arabic: ‫قوات سوريا الديمقراطية‬, translit. Quwwāt Sūriyā al-
Dīmuqrāṭīya, Kurdish: Hêzên Sûriya Demokratîk, Classical Syriac: ‫ܚܝ̈ܠܘܬܐ ܕܣܘܪܝܐ‬
‫ܕܝܡܩܪܛܝܬܐ‬, translit. Ḥaylawotho d'Suriya Demoqraṭoyto), commonly abbreviated as SDF,
HSD or QSD, are a multi-ethnic and multi-religious alliance of predominantly Kurdish, but
also Arab and Assyrian/Syriacmilitias, as well as some
smaller Turkmen, Armenian, Circassian and Chechen groups/participation[85] in the Syrian Civil
War.[86]The SDF is mostly composed of, and militarily led by, the People's Protection Units (YPG), a
mostly Kurdish militia.[87] According to the Pentagon, Kurds made up 40% of the SDF and Arabs 60%
in March 2017, although other sources estimate the Arab components of the SDF to be at a
significantly lower number.[88] Founded in October 2015, the SDF states its mission as fighting to
create a secular, democratic and federal Syria, along the lines of the Rojava Revolution in northern
Syria. The updated December 2016 constitution of the Democratic Federation of Northern
Syria names the SDF as its official defence force.[89]
The primary opponents of the SDF and their allies are the Salafist and Islamic fundamentalist groups
involved in the civil war, in particular the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey-backed
Syrian opposition groups, al-Qaeda affiliates, and their allies. The SDF has focused primarily on
ISIL,[90] successfully driving them from important strategic areas, such as Al-Hawl, Shaddadi, Tishrin
Dam, Manbij, al-Tabqah, Tabqa Dam, Baath Dam, and ISIL's former capital of Raqqa.[91]

Contents
[hide]

 1Establishment
o 1.1Foundation
o 1.2Signatory groups
o 1.3Syrian Arab Coalition
 2Size, growth and composition
o 2.12015
o 2.22016
o 2.32017
o 2.42018
 3Support by the United States, France and other Western nations
 4Alleged internal conflict between SDF factions
 5Alleged war crimes
 6See also
 7References
 8External links

Establishment[edit]
Foundation[edit]
The establishment of the SDF was announced on 11 October 2015 during a press conference in al-
Hasakah.[92] The alliance built on longstanding previous cooperation between the founding partners.
While the People's Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) and the Women's Protection
Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Jin, YPJ) had been operating throughout the cantons of Rojava, the
other founding partners were more geographically focused.
Geographically focused on Kobanî Canton were the YPG's partners in the Euphrates Volcano joint
operations room, several mainstream Syrian rebel factions of the Free Syrian Army, who had helped
defend the Kurdish town of Kobanî during the Siege of Kobanî. Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa was also in
Euphrates Volcano, and it expelled by the al-Nusra Front and ISIL from the city of Raqqa for being
allied with the YPG since April 2014. The group participated in the capture of Tell Abyad from the
Islamic State.
Geographically focused on Jazira Canton were the Assyrian Syriac Military Council (Mawtbo
Fulhoyo Suryoyo, MFS) and the al-Sanadid Forces of the Arab Shammar tribe, both of whom had
cooperated with the YPG in fighting ISIL since 2013.[93] The MFS is further politically aligned with the
YPG via their shared secular ideology of democratic confederalism, which in the Assyriancommunity
is known as the Dawronoye movement.[94]
Geographically focused on the Shahba region was the Army of Revolutionaries (Jaysh al-Thuwar,
JAT), itself an alliance of several groups of diverse ethnic and political backgrounds, who had in
common that they had been rejected by the mainstream Syrian opposition for secular, anti-
Islamist views and affiliations. However, most of the JAT component groups have always used
the Free Syrian Army label and continue to use it.
Signatory groups[edit]
The following groups signed the founding document:[92]

1. People's Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG)


2. Women's Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Jin, YPJ)
3. Al-Sanadid Forces
4. Syriac Military Council (Mawtbo Fulhoyo Suryoyo, MFS)
5. Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa
6. Euphrates Volcano
7. Army of Revolutionaries (Jaysh al-Thuwar, JAT)
1. 99th Infantry Brigade
8. Brigade Groups of al-Jazira
On 10 December 2015, after a two-day conference, The Syrian Democratic Council was established
as a political platform of the SDF. Human rights activist Haytham Manna was co-chairman at its
founding.[95] The Assembly that established the Syrian Democratic Council was made up of 13
members from specific ethnic, economic and political backgrounds.
Syrian Arab Coalition[edit]
The Syrian Arab Coalition is claimed by the U.S. government as an alliance of programmatically
exclusively ethnic Arab militias established during the Syrian Civil War. In this narrative, it consists of
exclusively ethnic Arab component groups of the SDF alliance,[96][97] like Al-Sanadid Forces, Army of
Revolutionaries, and others.

Size, growth and composition[edit]


2015[edit]
At the time of its founding in late 2015, The Economist described the SDF as "essentially a
subsidiary of the Kurdish YPG".[98]

 At the end of October 2015, the al-Shaitat tribal militia, the Desert Hawks Brigade joined the
SDF to fight ISIL in the southern countryside of Hasakah Governorate.[99]
 On 15 November 2015, the FSA group Euphrates Jarabulus Battalions announced its accession
to the Syrian Democratic Forces.[100]
 On 2 December 2015, members of the Deir ez-Zor Governorate-based Arab tribe al-
Shaitat joined the SDF, sending fighters to al-Shaddadah.[101]
2016[edit]

Hussam Awak, a former brigadier general in the Syrian Armed Forces who resigned in 2005 and joined the
SDF in October 2016, later leaving in December 2017

With continuous growth in particular due to Arab groups and volunteers joining, as of March 2016
only an estimated 60% of the men and women in the SDF fighting force were ethnic
Kurdish.[102] Growth in particular of ethnic Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian participation in the SDF has
since continued. In an interview on the first anniversary of the SDF's founding, spokesman Talal Silo,
an ethnic Turkmen and former commander of the Seljuq Brigade, stated that "we started with 13
factions and now there are 32 factions", and that "90 percent" of the SDF growth since it began its
operations were ethnic Arab.[103] In the context of the November 2016 Northern Raqqa offensive, The
Economist claimed the SDF fighting force to be composed of "about 20,000 YPG fighters and about
10,000 Arabs".[104]The next month in December 2016, Colonel John Dorrian, the Operation Inherent
Resolve spokesman, stated that the SDF contains around 45,000 fighters, of which more than
13,000 are Arabs.[105]

 On 6 January 2016 an additional 400 members of the Arab Deir ez-Zor Governorate-based
tribe al-Shaitat joined the SDF, sending fighters to Al-Shaddadah.[106]
 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.[107]
 On 28 February 2016, a group called Martyr Qasim Areef Battalion from Sarrin was formed and
joined the Army of Revolutionaries and the SDF.[101]
 On 10 March 2016, a group called the Soldiers of the Two Holy Mosques Brigade joined the
Syrian Democratic Forces as part of the Northern Sun Battalion.[101] It was formerly part of
the Army of Mujahideen's 19th Division. The group operated in the northern Aleppo
Governorate countryside, and 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 Shaddadijoined the SDF, most of them Arabs.[108]
 On 19 March 2016, it was reported that a group under the name of Liwa Ahrar al-Raqqa ("Free
Raqqa Brigade") joined the SDF.[109] The group had earlier been known under the name of Liwa
al-Jihad fi Sabeel Allah ("Jihad in the Path of God Brigade") and had in September 2014 been
part of the Euphrates Volcano operations room.[110]
 On 2 April 2016 the SDF established the Manbij Military Council with the goal of securing the city
of Manbij and its surrounding countryside (Manbij offensive). The council also included
previously unknown groups such as the Manbij Revolutionaries Battalion, or the Manbij Turkmen
Brigade which joined the Northern Sun Battalion of the Army of Revolutionaries.[111]
 On 20 June 2016, a group called the Tel Rifaat Revolutionaries Battalion, with 250 members,
joined the Kurdish Front of the Army of Revolutionaries.[112]
 On 23 June 2016 in the al-Shaddadah area, 158 al-Shaitat tribesmen from the FSA group Elite
Forces, which was not yet an SDF component group at the time, defected to join the SDF
component group, the Desert Hawks Brigade, consisting of members of that tribe.[113][114]
 On 14 August 2016, after securing Manbij, the SDF established the al-Bab Military Council with
the goal of securing the city of al-Bab and its surrounding countryside.[115]
 On 21 August, in a similar fashion to the establishment of the Manbij and al-Bab Military
Councils, the SDF established the Jarablus Military Council with the goal of securing the city
of Jarablus and its surrounding countryside. The council also includes the newly established
group, the Manbij Revolutionary Brigades.[116][117][118][119] The commander of the council, General
Sattar Jader from Jarabulus Hawks Brigades, was assassinated the next day, a suspect was
later arrested.[120][121]
 On 13 September 2016 the al-Nukhbat Brigade, consisting of members from the al-
Shaitat and Shammar tribes and led by Ahmad Jarba, joined the SDF. While some of its
members already had earlier defected and joined the SDF, the event was considered a major
political coup for the SDF, as Jarba was the former President of the National Coalition for Syrian
Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and now agreed to work with the Syrian Democratic
Council framework instead.
 On 14 October 2016, the Free Officers Union, led by Hussam Awak, claimed to number in the
hundreds joined the SDF.[12][13]
 On 31 October 2016, an all-female battalion was established within' the al-Bab Military
Council.[122]
 On 8 December 2016, the Deir ez-Zor Military Council was established.[16] The founding
members consist of remnants of the former Free Syrian Army council of the same name,
expelled from the city by the Islamic State in 2014, having joined the SDF in November 2016.[123]
2017[edit]
According to a March 2017 statement of the Spokesman for the International Coalition forces, U.S.
Colonel John Dorrian, 75 percent of the SDF forces fighting in Operation Wrath of Euphrates to
isolate ISIL's de facto capital of Raqqa were Syrian Arabs, a reflection of the demographic
composition of that area. "The Syrian Democratic Forces are a multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian
organization, and that is one of the reasons why we're working with them and they have continued to
build the Arab element of their force."[124] Concerning the SDF in general, Lieutenant
General Stephen Townsend in the same month said that "I’m seeing what is probably a pretty broad
coalition of people and the Kurds may be providing the leadership, because they have a capable
leader who’s stepped up to this challenge. And they are providing some of the organisational skill,
but I see a large contingent about 23 to 25, 000 so far and growing, Arabs, who are marching to
liberate their part of northern Syria. So, I don’t see a Kurdish state. I see a multi-cultural, multi-party,
multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian Syrian region being liberated from ISIS. Over."[125]
Late June, an analysis by the Counter Terrorism Center at West Point noted "growing acceptance of
the SDF by Sunni Arab rebel groups" and more generally "growing legitimacy of the
SDF".[123] Another analysis as of late June described the YPG as "only one faction of many within the
SDF", however that "it’s the YPG that makes the SDF reliable and effective. The SDF’s other
components function as auxiliaries to the SDF’s 'backbone', the YPG, which ensures effective,
unitary command and control."[126]

 On 13 February, the first YPG/YPJ regiment in Kobanî Canton was declared. The second
regiment, named Şehîd Şevger Kobanî Regiment was established on 18 February.[127] A total of
4 regiments were declared.[128]
 On 25 February 2017, the YPG agreed to hand over security in the Assyrian towns along
the Khabur River to the Khabour Guards and Nattoreh which joined the SDF.[5]
 On 27 February 2017, the first YPG/YPJ regiment in Afrin Canton, named Martyr Xebat Dêrik
Regiment was declared.[128]
 On 8 April 2017, the Jazeera Knights Brigade was established.[23]
 On 10 April 2017, two new YPG/YPJ regiments, named Martyr Gabar Regiment and Dêrik and
Martyr Zana Regiment were established in Jazira Canton.[128]
 On 4 May 2017, the International Anti-Fascist Battalion was renamed to the YPG International
Battalion and became a part of the YPG.[129][2]
 On 17 May 2017, the Raqqa Internal Security Forces were established.[72]
 On 8 June, between 60 and 70 Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters, including
several Sultan Murad Division commanders, defected to the Syrian Army and the SDF during
infighting between TFSA factions.[130]
 On 10 July, an all-female Arab SDF group was established in Deir ez-Zor, the Martyr Amara
Arab Women's Battalion, named after a female Arab SDF fighter that died in combat. Their area
of focus will be the Deir ez-Zor Governorate. The group currently consists of 35 fighters from the
cities of Hama, al-Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah, along with the town of al-Shaddadah.[17][18]
 On 15 August, the Revolutionary Forces was formed as part of the SDF in northern Aleppo, with
the intent to fight the Turkish occupation of northern Syria.[31]
 On 25 August, 800 fighters left the Elite Forces and was fully integrated into the ranks of the
SDF and its Deir ez-Zor Military Council. The fighters accused the Elite Forces of corruption.
These forces consist of 7 units of al-Baggara and al-Shaitat tribal fighters stationed in the
eastern Raqqa and southern Hasaka countrysides.[131]
 On 4 September, a faction of the Northern Brigade, which is a TFSA unit, deserted to the
SDF.[132]
 Around 10 September, dozens of militiamen of the pro-government Forces of the Fighters of the
Tribes joined the SDF. These militiamen had previously been overrun by ISIL during the Central
Syria campaign and retreated into SDF-held areas in order to avoid being captured by the
Islamist militants. Feeling abandoned by their old commander, they eventually decided to stay
with the SDF.[133][134]
 On 15 November 2017, Talal Silo, defected or surrendered to the Turkish Army, the nature of his
leaving the SDF being up for dispute.[135][136][137]
 On 27 November 2017, the Martyr Adnan Abu Amjad Regiment, consisting of 250 fighters was
established, and joined the Manbij Military Council,[138]
 On 20 December 2017, Hussam Awak announced his resignation from the SDF on
his Facebook page without providing any reasons.[11]
 On 22 December 2017, it was announced that a border guard force would be established.[139]
2018[edit]

 On 13 January 2018, it was announced that the US-led Coalition would train a group called
the Syrian Border Security Force (BSF), and would aim to reach 30,000 fighters, half of those
being composed by current SDF members.[140]

Support by the United States, France and other Western


nations[edit]

An SDF IAG Guardian armoured personnel carrierin February 2017, one of several APCs that were supplied by
the United States to the SDF.

US Army Stryker armoured vehicles drive through Qamishli and head to the Syria-Turkey border after Turkish-
YPG April 2017 border clashes.

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 SDF-controlled territory in Rojava. Polat Can,
spokesman of the SDF component militia People's Protection Units (YPG), identified the freight as
being "assault rifles, mortars and ammunition, but no TOW anti-tank missiles nor anti-aircraft
weapons".[141][142] The airdrop came only days after the Pentagon had officially abandoned its failed
$500 million train-and-equip program of "moderate rebels" fighting ISIL.[143]
During the SDF's February 2016 al-Shaddadi offensive, there were US special forces embedded
with the SDF forces who coordinated airstrikes against ISIL with the SDF.[144]
On 17 March 2016, the day after the declaration of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria
(DFNS, Rojava), U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the SDF component militia People's
Protection Units (YPG) as having "proven to be excellent partners of ours on the ground in fighting
ISIL. We are grateful for that, and we intend to continue to do that, recognizing the complexities of
their regional role."[145]
During the SDF's May 2016 offensive against ISIL in Northern Raqqa, the presence of U.S. Special
Forces was widely reported, and several photographs of them wearing badges of the YPG and YPJ
on their uniforms circulated.[146]
On 21 May 2016, General 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 were U.S.
special operations forces and meet with local forces the U.S. was helping train to fight ISIL. The visit
came as the first of 250 additional U.S. special operations forces were beginning to arrive in Syria to
work with local forces.[49] The commander overseeing the war in Syria, at the end of a long Saturday
spent touring SDF bases, said "We do, absolutely, have to go with what we've got".[50]
During the SDF's summer 2016 Manbij offensive against ISIL, the U.S. Air Force as well as special
operation forces of several Western nations supported the SDF advance. The Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights claimed that besides US special forces, German and Frenchforces were
participating.[147] Germany officially denied the report,[148] but France confirmed it.[53][54]
After two Syrian air force SU-24´s started air strikes in Al-Hasakah, on 19 August 2016,[51] near
where coalition forces were conducting operations on the ground, coalition aircraft arrived and
the United States Department of Defense said that "It troubles us when we see regime air strikes
in Hasakah in an area where it is well known by everybody, to include the Assad regime, that the
coalition is actively engaged in operations against Isis",[52] implicitly recognizing that elite troops are
training and supporting the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces in the area.[52]

 During the late summer 2016 Turkish military intervention in the Syrian Civil War in the Shahba
region, U.S. Special Operations Forces embedded with SDF forces in order to successfully deter
Turkey and Turkish-backed jihadi rebels from attacking SDF forces south of the Sajur
river.[20] Further, the United States Department of Defense confirmed that U.S. Special Operation
Forces were flying U.S. flags in the town of Tell Abyad in Kobanî Canton to deter Turkish
harassment shelling or attacks against SDF forces there.[149]

 During the SDF's late summer 2016 Western al-Bab offensive against ISIL, the U.S. Air
Force provided close combat support for SDF forces.[150]

 Late September 2016, the U.S. spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation
Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) confirmed that the SDF, including the YPG, is also part of the
"vetted forces" in the train and equip program and will be supplied with weapons. The President
of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, condemned this and claimed that the SDF are "endangering
our future".[151]

 Early October 2016, media reports highlighted construction work on another military airfield in
SDF controlled territory for operations of U.S. air assets, in the vicinity of al-Shaddadah in Jazira
Canton,[152][153][154] in addition to the two airfields the U.S. is widely reported to already co-operate
there: Abu Hajar Airport in Rmelan in Jazira Canton and one airfield at the village of Septe south
of Kobanî in Kobanî Canton.[155][156][157][158]

 Late October 2016, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commander of
the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, said that the SDF
would lead the impending assault on Raqqa, ISIL's stronghold and capital, and that SDF
commanders would plan the operation with advice from American and coalition troops.[159] From
November, more than 300 U.S. Special Operations Forces were embedded to train and advise
SDF fighters in the Raqqa offensive.[160]

 In January 2017, the European Syriac Union in Brussels requested the US to provide more
support for the Assyrian and Kurdish components of the Syrian Democratic Forces. The US
reportedly favoured the Arab components in the SDF,[161] in April the MFS and the HSNB
reaffirming the request for more support from the US.[162][162]
 In late January 2017, the SDF received a number of armoured personnel carriers produced
by ArmorGroup and supplied by the US.[163]

 In February 2017, Stephen Townsend visited Kobanî. On 25 February, the US Central


Command stated that it would continue to train and equip forces of the Manbij Military
Council.[164] During the East Aleppo offensive (February–March 2017), the US deployed troops
and armored vehicles to villages near Manbij in an attempt to "deter" the skirmishes between the
SDF and Turkey-backed forces west and north of Manbij.[165]

 In late March 2017, the US delivered 30 more Guardian armoured vehicles to the SDF for use in
the Raqqa offensive.[166]

 In late April 2017, the U.S. just as in the summer 2016 once again deployed U.S. troops
embedded with the SDF to the border between Rojava/Syria and Turkey, in order to deter
Turkish aggressions against the SDF, which this time coincided with the SDF's breakthrough
advances against ISIL in the Raqqa campaign.[167][168]

 On 9 May 2017, it was announced by the Pentagon that American President Donald
Trump approved of a plan that would have the United States directly provide heavy armaments
to the major SDF component group, the YPG; the plan comes before a planned final offensive to
capture Raqqa from ISIL.[169][170][171]

 By July 2017, more than 8,500 members of the SDF have been trained by the US-led coalition
and in the first half of 2017, more than 400 vehicles and other equipment have been delivered to
over 40,000 SDF troops.[172]

 According to a report from the Kurdish news network Kurdistan 24, the major SDF component
group, YPG forces, have received about 800 truckloads of military supplies from the Pentagon
from early June to the end of July 2017.[173][174] [175]

 In a joint report published on 12 September 2017, the Organized Crime and Corruption
Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) alleged that
the Pentagon has given so far up to $2.2 billion worth of weapons to the Kurdish-led Syrian
Democratic Forces[176][177]
 In late November 2017, Turkish officials stated that Trump told Erdogan during their November
24 phone conversation that the U.S. would end arms supplies to the SDF. Erdogan said: "For
the first time in a long while, a common wavelength was reached." [178] But Syrian Democratic
Forces (SDF) denied on November 28 that there is a halt in the Washington armament, saying
they were provided with weapons by the U.S. the day before.[179] Kurdish officials also said on
November 27 that the United States would only "adjust" its delivery of weapons to the SDF.
American officials also stated that they will continue to work with its Kurdish and Arab partners of
SDF but will only review and adjust its delivery of weapons which is being done regularly.[180] The
International Coalition also confirmed its support for SDF is ongoing.[181]

Alleged internal conflict between SDF factions[edit]


In November 2015, Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa merged with the Tribal Army to form Jabhat Thuwar al-
Raqqa to become part of the SDF. After some tensions between the group and the People's
Protection Units (YPG), on 6 January 2016 the group allegedly issued a statement claiming it was
disbanding.[182] Later the same month, some sources claimed that the Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa
reappeared, announcing it had decided to rejoin the SDF.[183]
Turkey has at various times tried and failed to incite tensions along ethnic lines within the SDF.[20] At
the height of one such attempts after the start of the summer 2016 Manbij offensive, Sheikh Farouk
al-Mashi, an ethnic Arab former member of the Syrian parliament and designated co-chairman of the
Manbij City Council, stated: "I have a Syrian ID, and Kurds have a Syrian ID. Let those people who
talk against us in Turkey and Europe come here and fight ISIS. Why this distortion in media about
problems between Kurds and Arabs?" Ethnic Kurdish fellow co-chairman Salih Haji Mohammed
stated: "In our social contract, we say we want to have good relations with neighboring countries like
Turkey. Any country that does not interfere in Manbij and our areas, we will have good relations
with."[184] A fighter gave his perspective as "we have Arabs, Kurds, nobody knows how many exactly,
we all work under the SDF-forces".[185]

 In September 2016 during the Turkish military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, the leader of
small SDF component group Liwa al-Tahrir, Abdul Karim Obeid, defected to the camp of
Turkish-backed rebels with 20 to 100 of his men, citing opposition to alleged YPG domination of
the SDF, while SDF sources suggested he was displeased with the civil administration of
the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria replacing warlordist political rule in the Free Syrian
Army style. The remaining fighters stayed with the SDF.[20]

 Also In September 2016 during the Turkish military intervention, some Arab sources reported
that Liwa Ahrar al-Raqqa clashed with the YPG,[21] however two days later the Liwa Ahrar al-
Raqqa's commander said that news about the clashes and defections were false, he denied that
such clashes had ever happened.[186]

 In mid-November 2016, Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa's political bureau, which has strong connections
with Turkey, condemned the SDF's Raqqa offensive led by the YPG. This caused tensions
between the group's political bureau, who opposes the YPG, and the overall leader and military
commander of Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa, Abu Issa, who is allied with the YPG.[187][188] Some
members of Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa left the group and joined the SDF's Liwa Ahrar al-Raqqa in
response to the tensions.[189]

 On 10 December 2016, the second phase of the Northern al-Raqqa campaign was announced,
with Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa participating under the SDF.[190] 2 weeks later, the Raqqa Hawks
Brigade reportedly captured several Thuwar al-Raqqa military commanders and forced them to
announce their defection. On 27 December, the commanders declared on video that they are
still with Thuwar al-Raqqa.[191] On 20 February 2017, one sub-commander of the Raqqa Hawks
Brigade, Abu Yamen al-Meko, who reportedly had strong links to the Military Intelligence
Directorate, declared his loyalty to Bashar al-Assad and formed the pro-government unit
"Tajamou al-Shamal". His followers consequently raised the Ba'athist flag at their headquarters
in the village of al-Fares. These actions, however, provoked the ire of Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa,
which launched a surprise attack on al-Fares two days later and destroyed al-Meko's faction,
killing or capturing its members. Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa went on to declare that it "would never
allow the regime and its supporting militia to re-enter the city [of Raqqa] by any means".[192][193]

 On 10 April 2017, a purported spokesman for the Elite Forces claimed that the group is not part
of the SDF, will cooperate with both the SDF and Rojava Peshmerga to capture Deir ez-Zor, and
rejected federalism.[194] On 15 April, this statement was denied by Muhammad Khalid Shakir, the
official spokesman of the Elite Forces. He denied any disagreements between the Elite Forces
and the SDF and said that "We are in the framework of the international coalition. The
leadership of the coalition manages the operations on the ground. Our troops did not withdraw.
We have completed the third phase of the Wrath of Euphrates Operation, and we will participate
in all stages until Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor are freed."[195]
 On 28 September 2017, Yasser al-Dahla, commander of the Gathering of al-Baggara Youth,
part of the SDF's Deir ez-Zor Military Council, was arrested by SDF military police, which
accused Dahla of not effectively participating in the SDF's Deir ez-Zor offensive and the "lack
of military discipline". The Gathering of al-Baggara Youth denied these charges, and accused
the Deir ez-Zor Military Council of denying Euphrates Shield fighters who defected to the SDF to
join the Gathering. Dahla reportedly threatened to cease his group's participation in the Deir ez-
Zor offensive.[196]

 As of October 2017, thousands of Arab fighters have allegedly defected from the SDF.[45][additional
citation needed]

 On 15 November 2017, Talal Silo, defected or surrendered to the Turkish Army, the nature of his
leaving the SDF being up for dispute.[135][136][137]

 On 20 December 2017, Hussam Awak announced his resignation from the SDF on
his Facebook page without providing any reasons.[11]

Alleged war crimes[edit]


See also: Human rights in Rojava § Rojava-associated militias
On 15 March 2017, a video surfaced that showed members of the Northern Sun Battalion allegedly
torturing an ISIL fighter, who had been captured while planting mines. One of these mines had
reportedly killed nine fighters of the battalion, leading five others to take revenge on the ISIL militant.
The Manbij Military Council condemned the act, and announced that the involved Northern Sun
Battalion fighters would be held for trial for violating the Geneva Conventions.[197][198] The five accused
were arrested on 17 March.[199]