Pentagon welcomes advance by ISIS-fighting allies in Syria

In this Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2014 photo, a Kurdish fighter fires on an Islamic State group position in Kobani, Syria.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2014 photo, a Kurdish fighter fires on an Islamic State group position in Kobani, Syria.


A coalition including Syrian Arab groups regained a swath of territory in northeastern Syria from ISIS militants, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday, calling it an encouraging success.

The fighters, who are from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its Syrian Arab Coalition subgroup, regained 87 square miles (255 square kilometers) near the town of al-Hawl, U.S. military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.

The group “conducted an attack … driving ISIL back,” Warren said by videoconference from Baghdad, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.

“This is not a large tactical action,” he said, but “we are encouraged by what we saw.”

The spokesman said the operation had pitted “well over a thousand friendly forces” against “several hundred enemies” in the vicinity, after heavy U.S. airstrikes had cleared the way.

Warren said the U.S. intended to “reinforce” the action, seeming to hint at further ammunition air drops to U.S.-allied groups after those that took place last month.

The Syrian Democratic Forces were formed in mid-October as an alliance between the powerful Kurdish People‘s Protection Units (YPG) and other Syrian rebel groups.

The Pentagon’s announcement came just a day after The New York Times published an article calling into question the capabilities of the SDF and the Syrian Arab Coalition.

Referring to the SDF, The Times said that “nearly all the group’s fighting power comes from ethnic Kurdish militias” – suggesting it was not quite the coalition of Arabs and Kurds it claimed to be.


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