Eclectic Anti-ISIS Fighters Being Trained By U.S. Military


By Debbie Gregory.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Union, also known by the initials YPG, is a predominantly Kurdish militia taking up arms against ISIS. The YPJ, also known as the Women’s Defense Units, is the YPG’s female brigade, which was set up in 2012.

The Anti-ISIS fighters know firsthand the darkness that is ISIS. Most of the young fighters have lost family members and friends to the terrorist group.

But they are also aware of ethnic and other complexities facing the U.S. military as it seeks to develop a coherent and competent network of local Syria forces to defeat ISIS.

A small group of American military advisers works here with the YPG and other Syrian volunteers — mostly Arab men — who have taken up arms against this threat to both their country and their families.

The Americans said the number of Arab volunteers has surged this spring, following a series of battlefield gains against ISIS.

Rather than committing American forces, the U.S. strategy relies on training, organizing and advising local fighters for combat. Members of the YPG have said that by training to fight against ISIS, they have lost their fear of combat.

The U.S. has organized the fighters into a group it calls the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. The SDF is comprised mostly of Syrian Kurds, numbering at least 25,000 fighters, with a smaller element of Syrian Arabs numbering perhaps 5,000 to 6,000.

Compared to other factions engaged in the Syrian Civil war, the YPG has not received significant foreign assistance in the form of weapons and military equipment.

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