The US's new ground tool is a mixed bag force armed with tablets

Published November 10th, 2015 - 04:42 GMT
SDF forces post up for their al-Hol offensive, which began Oct 31. (AFP/File)
SDF forces post up for their al-Hol offensive, which began Oct 31. (AFP/File)

Last week, a statement came out announcing the latest iteration of a US-supported ground forces fighting against Daesh (ISIS) in Syria. 

Dubbed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the announcement was followed by a video report from a very impressed BBC showing members of the new force calling in US airstrikes in Syria—from a tablet. Despite the perks, the SDF isn’t really unprecedented. It comes instead from a long line of US programs in Syria. 

The New Syrian Forces (NSF), for example, was the umbrella term for the CIA-vetted troops behind the US's now-defunct train-and-equip package for Syrian rebels in Turkey and Jordan. But when a freshly trained batch of NSF fighters handed a chunk of their American equipment over to al-Qaeda's Syria wing Nursa Front late September, the long-ailing program was finally scrapped.

Enter the SDF—a mixed bag fighting force of Kurds, Christians and Arabs, some of whom are leftover NSF fighters. But insiders suspect the group is actually steered by the Western-favored Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG).

US interaction still exists mostly from the air, the SDF calls in airstrikes and sends suspected Daesh coordinates to US authorities.

They’re currently battling Daesh for control of the strategic northeastern town of al-Hol, taking 12 villages around it so far by their own tally. But the real SDF target is Raqqa. A group leader told Voice of America last month: “It will be a decisive and historic battle.”

And he’s right—if the group does manage to take Daesh’s de-facto capital city, they really would succeed where plenty of other US programs have failed (albeit with tablets in hand).

Here’s the group’s official statement with English translation. Via Twitter. 


We are now in the 5th year of our revolution against the criminal regime in Damascus, still we are very far from unity and fighting under one leadership. Al Asala waltanmiah troop has been fighting since its inception along with anyone that Syrian unite with, we were never late to back up our brother and we have never set obstacles on the road of the revolution.

Today we are endeavoring to liberate the biggest area in Syria – the eastern area – today our troops are in all the hotspots like Aleppo, Idlib and other cities on the coast, however this does not mean that we leave the terror planted by the regime to distort Islam and revolution while in fact they are allies to al Assad and his right hand.

From this principle we have established training campuses to liberate the eastern area of Syria by establishing the new Syrian army which will be the foundation to a united army that will only fight the country enemies (ISIS and their allies) and we thank all true and faithful Jihadies from our heart.

7 November

By Elizabeth Tarbell

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