Where’s Waldo? – A Followup to Special Forces in Rojava


The France24 film I linked to yesterday documented the presence of “Western special forces” at the battle of Shaddadi. Upon closer examination I have concluded that the bulk of the helmeted soldiers caught on film are an Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC) team. There are a few others in mufti who strike me as special mission unit (SMU) types with lots of whiz-bang gadgetry. They look more like “operators” rather than Special Forces soldiers. As Colonel Lang pointed out with his marvelous comment, “I wonder which martinet ass is making these GBs dress that way rather than like the people they are with.”

I was still looking for the mythical Green Berets in the documentary. I think I found them in this screen shot at the 10:32 point. It appears to be a command group. The soldier with the radio is wearing a YPG arm patch and is missing his right hand. I assume he is a YPG fighter. One of the faces is blurred out. One is well hidden by a keffiyeh reading out map coordinates to the YPG Kurd with the radio. Those two appear to be Green Berets in their natural habitat. There’s nothing flashy or high-speed about them and they’re dressed like the men they’re advising. The soldier standing with his hands in his pockets on the right could be either. His face isn’t blurred out, but he has that look with which I’m very familiar. I’ve seen that look in many team rooms and training camps. Perhaps it’s a private joke among the team that the film crew took him for a local rather than a Westerner. DOL


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40 Responses to Where’s Waldo? – A Followup to Special Forces in Rojava

  1. Jackrabbit says:

    The snipers also seem to be GB (film shots just before this “command group” – at least one of whom has face blocked out).

  2. Tigermoth says:

    Nice video. Assad has always stated that the government continues to pay it’s workers even the ones in Raqqa, so I doubt there is much scandal with the oil workers being paid.
    I just came across this as the talk of the “Safe Zone” starts to rear its ugly head again.
    US to deploy high-mobility rocket system to Turkey-Syria border – Ankara
    “The US plans to deploy its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Turkey to help fight Islamic State in Syria, Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu has told local media. The deployment is part of an agreement to seal off the bordering Manbji region.
    The border region has been increasingly targeted by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in rocket attacks, according to Ankara.
    “As part of this deal, HIMARS systems will be arriving in Turkey’s borders in May. Therefore we will be able to hit Islamic State in a more efficient way,” he added, explaining that the current range of Turkish top-of-the-line rockets is only 40km, while America’s ground-based HIMARS can reach 90km.
    This will enable Turkey to help the Syrian opposition on the ground too. “To wipe out Islamic State from this region, we need to support the moderate opposition both from the air and ground,” he noted.
    Some doubt Turkey’s aspirations with regard to the idea of a safe zone. Military expert Vladimir Evseev told RIA that Ankara is interested in the measure in order to annex a part of Syria.
    “Turkey’s been at it for a while now with the safety zone. It is clear as day they’re not interested in creating one, but basically [want to] occupy part of Syria using the excuse. Their motives here are absolutely clear,” Evseev said, adding that the US would hardly supply Turkey with the HIMARS without US personnel in tow.”
    A “90 km” safezone? Quite a chunk of Syria. Is this part of the build up to take Manbji? The US has been bombing it lately. It sure seems funny that Turkey can’t close it from their side.

  3. VietnamVet says:

    The France24 documentary is fascinating. We see what we are trained to see. But, like Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, this is mostly a record of the aftermath of battle. I saw western forward air controllers dressed in casual mercenary calling in A-10 Warthog close air support.
    This shows that militias with close air support are unstoppable. Unless, they intend to seize a concrete and rebar city like the Homs Syria. The siege there lasted three years until that last 1000 opponents were bussed out.
    This is the first media report I’ve seen of the politics of the YPG. It is interesting that Kurds have chosen modernity and diversity to unify and defend their homeland. In fact, this documentary is a witness to the collapse of sovereign states and the world descending into endless warring tribes receiving increasingly sophisticated and deadly weapons from war profiteers paid for by taxes and the purchase of petroleum products.

  4. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You cannot be serious.
    Let us take Somalia – the Somaliland area – say about 1.6 million souls in Mogadishu.
    A quarter of them would be armed with light weapons – bought from war profiteers – at $ 500 a pop.
    That is 400,000 X 500 = 200 million dollars – say over a span of 10 years.
    That is 20 million a year.
    Boeing’s single-aisle 737 which is a very popular aircraft starts at $ 50 and could be used over the same 10-year interval.
    If one is serious about making money, one would try to sell Somalis, and Syrians, and Iranians and others passenger airplanes.
    The wars in the Near East will eventually end and some sort of central authority will be restored.
    But the opportunity cost to US would be quite large, in my opinion.

  5. Akira says:

    Photos of Syrian Kurds using new American weapons:
    “laser designator LA-16u/PEQ”
    “grenade launcher Milkor M32A1”
    “FGM-148 Javelin ATGM”

  6. bth says:

    Perhaps the range of the HIMARS based in southern Turkey is defining the northern most placement of Russian artillery.

  7. bth says:

    Where would the A10 shown in the video be based out of?

  8. bth,
    I don’t know if they’re flying out of Iraqi Kurdistan or not. Even if they’re based out of some Gulf State or Incirlik, they can use forward arming and refueling points (FARPs) on Kurdish airfields around Irbil.

  9. Amir says:

    War profiteers, profit from wars. It does not equate with their fellow countrymen equally profiting from the same war.
    I ran into a “contractor” who used to drive trucks in Iraq. He was paid 200.000 $ per year, which is not back for someone with a high school diploma but then comes the “fine print”: he had to buy his own armor, his own weapon and ammunition as well as food and living quarters… Obviously all those items are sold at market up prices, considering the risk factor involved. He was back from Iraq and drying a towing truck, that he was able to buy with that money.
    On the other hand, the war profiteers in DMV live in McMansions: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-wartime-washington-lives-in-luxury

  10. Barish says:

    Looking for more technical data on the M142 HIMARS – that’s the one, right? or are there other systems running under the HIMARS-acronym? – I found this site here:
    Regarding the range of 90 Km that is given for it: is this upgraded range of 90 Km, compared to the 40 Km that site there lists, a result of more up-to-date rockets? Or is it more complex than that (upgraded targeting systems, both “soft”- and hardware etc.)? Further, is there any reason why HIMARS would be deployed rather than its “big brother”, the MLRS-system, which has a higher capacity of rockets of the same calibre, i.e. it should be possible to upgrade it to the same range?
    What one could otherwise do with a 90 Km/60 miles-range can be gleaned from this site here:
    Would just about reach Idlib-city too, as it happens (the system won’t be stationed in the middle of the town of Kilis, but to its south, one assumes):
    Area of interest that is otherwise to Idlib-city’s direct north, some 8 Km away, are the villages of Kafarya and Foua, which are besieged by the various jihadi-outfits under the umbrella of “Jaish al-Fatah”, sponsored by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi & Co.
    There (hopefully) isn’t any intent to give those jihadi crews a lift here via this system, and I do realize that Kilis isn’t quite mentioned directly as the place where the system is to be deployed, as per AP:
    “ISTANBUL (AP) — The United States will deploy a rocket launcher system in southeastern Turkey across the border from Syria, officials said Tuesday.
    U.S. Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, deputy commander for the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, said that the mobile, long-range rocket system will be the fourth one deployed around the region.
    Speaking from Baghdad to reporters at the Pentagon, Gersten noted that one is in Jordan, another is in Iraq’s Anbar province and another is being deployed to help in the fight to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
    He wouldn’t say where exactly in Turkey the system would be placed, but it could likely be used as the campaign progresses to retake IS de facto capital Raqqa in northern Syria.
    “I will tell you that is a recent development that we have been working on, and we are looking at how it’s going to be installed, and we’re working very closely with our strong partners in Turkey to find out exactly how it’s going to operate,” he said.
    In an interview with the Haberturk newspaper published on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said U.S. HIMARS missiles would arrive in May as part of a joint effort to combat IS.
    Turkey regularly shells IS targets in northern Syria in response to cross-border rockets, which have hit the Turkish town of Kilis. Turkish shells have a range of approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) whereas HIMARS missiles can reach targets 90 kilometers (55 miles) away. HIMARS stands for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
    “In order to clear the area of Daesh, we have to give the moderate opposition both aerial and ground support,” Cavusoglu said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
    Clearing the Manbij area would pave the way for the creation of a “safe zone,” he added. […]”
    Yet it is in some manner suggested by the reference to the hits on Kilis and surroundings that HIMARS would be deployed in that corner.

  11. LeaNder says:

    Thanks, TTG for focusing attention. Helpful. Although this made me look closer: “he has that look with which I’m very familiar” elsewhere too, admittedly. 😉
    Strictly first impressions of films are always slightly tricky. I watched some passages again, and I guess I wouldn’t be as easily drawn into focusing on propaganda as yesterday. If you work on that specific front you necessarily catch the respective citizen’s perspective. But: First versus second impressions is not really a new experience concerning films while studying them more seriously. …
    VV “It is interesting that Kurds have chosen modernity and diversity to unify and defend their homeland. In fact, this documentary is a witness to the collapse of sovereign states”
    I don’t think that it must necessarily be “a witness to the collapse of sovereign states”, although it looks like that more then ever in our post “mission accomplished” universe.
    But without doubt the Turkish-Kurdish conflict has a long history and Syria at times was a place to withdraw or escape Turkish authorities for the PKK. In this context no doubt Western support of the Kurds may raise older devils. My hope is it cannot be reduced to a pure anti-regime-change force.
    “Modernity and diversity” may indeed be an related to the above fight in my own times, extending at times to my own ground, both as far as supporters are concerned, but also concerning the larger expat fight between the two groups over here over the decades.
    What I was much less aware of at the time, is the right(nationalist)-left additions undercurrent. But then, in the PKK perspective, it may have only be a modification of the anti-Colonialist Zeitgeist, adopting it to ones own demands.
    Now one of the issues in the West were women’s rights. … I did sympathize with some positions, but was also somewhat irritated by some mainstream trends, I have to admit. E.g. the idea of a specific female voice in literature.
    Now to return there is this minor passage from Öcelan’s biography, real or some type of propaganda? You tell me. German wikipedia via Google translate with some minor modifications. (With Akira Kurosawa’s Ran in mind, admittedly, item: revenge)
    “In late 1970s Öcalan married the student Kesire Yıldırım (* October 21, 1951 [3] ). Within the organization there were strong reservations about the institution of marriage and against the origin of his wife. In 1980 they separated.
    Now it gets slightly cryptic without easy to check sources, due to the German “sie” which can be either second person singular, thus Kesire, or first person plural, thus the ones inside the party that supposedly planned her assassination. But it feels this is what the author/authors mean:
    In any case no trace of Kesire on the English Wikipedia version.
    Meanwhile some of Ocalan’s supporters played with the idea to assassinate Yıldırım. In 1984 Öcalan had them (sie) arrested. [4] A death sentence was imposed, but Öcalan prevented the execution. [5 Later they (sie) were pardoned and appointed to organize the party work in Athens. In 1988 Yıldırım attempted an internal party coup attempt against Ocalan, but failed. [6]”
    Yildirim tried to take revenge? Because Öcelan pardoned the ones that tried to assassinate her? But why via takeover of the party? …
    Lost in the history of the PKK

  12. Tigermoth says:

    If Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu has said: “As part of this deal, HIMARS systems will be arriving in Turkey’s borders in May. Therefore we will be able to hit Islamic State in a more efficient way”
    Does this mean that ISIS’s days are numbered because Turkey has now closed its borders to them for resupply? Or am I just being naive?

  13. Tigermoth says:

    A while ago when Russian was accused of bombing in Aleppo, they came back with the track and times of 2 A-10’s out of Incirlik, but Shaddi is much further away.

  14. robt willmann says:

    Somewhat off topic, but today, 27 April, Donald Trump is to give a “foreign policy” speech at noon, eastern time. What is somewhat interesting is a rumor that a contributing writer to it is Richard Burt. This rumor comes from the grotesque and notorious propagandist and neocon, Bill Kristol. Thus, I do not assume it to be true.
    However, if Burt is involved, it might be a clue to something Trump said last night after the primary results. In response to a question about what the biggest problem is, Trump said it was nuclear weapons, and scoffed at Obama’s statement that “climate change” is the world’s most urgent problem. Although Burt is unfortunately in tight with the usual suspects at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Center for the National Interest, he is also involved with Global Zero, an organization that says it wants to eliminate nuclear weapons–
    Quite a few people from around the world have signed onto Global Zero, including the elegant Lisa Noor, who as the wife of King Hussein of Jordan was Queen Noor–
    Burt was part of the START treaty negotiations on strategic arms with the Soviet Union. I have not heard previously that he was any type of advisor to Trump. If Burt is sincere about the absolutely real danger of nuclear weapons, then his input to Trump on the issue may be useful.

  15. Tigermoth says:

    From what I have read, the Kurds aren’t as homogenous as the media likes to make out. The Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian Kurds in the northeast don’t get on very well. The check point on the border between them was (is?) closed by the Iraqi Kurds.
    Even within the Syrian Kurds there are animosities, such as the PYD political party was really self appointed, the Kurdish police and the YPG militia aren’t necessarily best buddies. In Qamishli the Kurdish police (Asayish) were causing the trouble not the YPG. The “Federalist” declaration was not by the Kurdish “people” in a referendum it was done unilaterally by political parties which weren’t elected.
    There are tribes, clans, mafias, etc vying for their piece of the cake, and apparently in the western Afrin it takes on even more complexity.
    But, if you are interested, here is a link to a Kurdish news site for their point of view:

  16. Tigermoth says:

    In this Southfront article regarding T-72 tanks and TOW anti-tank missiles,
    there is a video showing about 15 minutes of Syrian tanks being blown up mostly by TOWs (it is not pleasant). While viewing the decimation and hearing the audio, I thought: “these guys are anything but “moderates”. This is going to come back and bite us hard.”
    An additional 250 US troops in Syria are going to increase those odds. From viewing the France 24 video, they aren’t “away” from the action.

  17. Tigermoth,
    This is the reality that our friend Babak has been pointing out for quite some time now. Western media fails to see this. Their only focus is on the female fighters of the YPJ.

  18. Matthew says:

    bth: I thought we were supposed to be defeating ISIS?

  19. Matthew says:

    Tigermoth: Naïve. (Sad to say.)

  20. Dubhaltach says:

    They’re not at all homogenous starting with the fact they speak three mutually uninteligible languages – that’s before you get into a discussion of the more pronounced dialects within those three languages.

  21. turcopolier says:

    bth et all
    The A-10s can do in flight refueling so they could be based anywhere. pl

  22. Tigermoth says:

    Oh! so it’s like here in South Africa where we have 11 official languages, 9 of them local African tribes, and maybe two are close, Zulu and Swazi, but none of the others! And then there are the local dialects.

  23. Serge says:

    No disrespect intended, but what do you expect them to yell out? ” freedom and democracy!” “for the Alamo!”. The incessant takbir, allahu akbars etc is something that I think the rebs unfairly get too much credit/flak for. You will see Kurds yelling the exact same things when firing off mortars/whatever, equally with SAA and the Iraqis(more cries of zahra and family of Muhammad from the latter). It is just that the overwhelming majority of combat videos from the war come from the jihadi side

  24. lally says:

    “Their only focus is on the female fighters of the YPJ.”
    The Western media could also focus some attention on the young Chechen female snipers faced by the SAA & Hezbollah in the 2013 hard-fought battle against the formidably trained & armed Nusra Front for control of al-Qusayr.
    One young lady estimated to be 18yrs old reportedly spent days holed up in a water tank.
    However, reports of fierce Chechen fighters and the NF nightly burning bodies of their dead in order to disguise their “foreign identities” may dislocate the Western narratives of the brave indigenous “opposition/rebels” fighting for regime change in Syria.
    That simply would not do.

  25. Wondook says:

    Don’t lose yourself in that history. Significant changes have been made in recruitment, organization, ideology and propaganda. The best update detailing all that on the PKK is written in my view by Walter Posch in ÖMZ.
    Part 1:
    Part 2:

  26. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to Tigermoth 27 April 2016 at 12:44 PM
    Not a bad comparison at all – the same situation (I’m told) applies to tribes along the Amazon where within quite small areas there exist a plethora of wholly distinct languages.
    As to dialect – I once had hours of fun suppressing my giggles watching and listening to my then girlfriend who was was from deepest darkest Bavaria trying to work out what the hell somebody from Flesnsburg was saying and vice versa. (As a Dane I had no problems doing that! And after all Schadenfreude IS a German word.)

  27. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to The Twisted Genius 26 April 2016 at 08:59 PM
    Why would they want to? My understanding is that the A10 can be refueled in flight. I can understand using FARPs for rearming if they were doing repeated runs and that that might be why they’d refuel but again my understanding is that they’re not doing repeated strikes so somewhat puzzled.

  28. Dubhaltach,
    The story of your former girlfriend reminds me of the time I saw an unsuspecting Bavarian ask for a Semmel in a Berlin cafe. It was like vultures descending on a bloated carcass. My partner and I vowed to watch what we said since we were based in Augsburg at the time.

  29. VietnamVet says:

    Amir & BM,
    The France24 documentary shows western troops right in the middle of a war with no end in sight and escalating.
    Yes, America is doing its best to ignore the wars it is enabling. But, even Washington DC is fraying on the edges; a 21% office vacancy rate in Arlington county and the Washington Metro subway system is falling apart killing passengers. Money is flowing to the military but due to sequestration it is drying up for domestic programs. Military logistics and security have been privatized. The hired mercenaries and contractors don’t have government medical care or pensions. They are on their own. The cost differences are pocketed by the connected.
    I attribute this to greed which can be corrected by returning government back to the people. The alternative is that mankind is terminally psychotic and we are witnessing the 6th mass extinction event.

  30. Dubhaltach,
    FARPs are only a possibility and, as you say, unnecessary in this situation. It would make a lot of sense if attack helicopters were ever to be employed.

  31. bth says:

    Stumbled across this article out of Turkey that says there are 4 Predator drones and 12 A-10s at Incirlik AFB.
    It also says that the HIMARS battery and the increased use of Hellfires from drones is to push ISIL Katyusha rocket attacks out of range of Kilis. This is important as Turkey is not flying jets into Syrian airspace.

  32. bth says:

    Slightly off topic. This article discusses British attack using two 2000 lb bunker busters against IS tunnel complex in hillsides along Euphrates in western Iraq. http://www.janes.com/article/59799/uk-debuts-bunker-buster-bombs-against-the-islamic-state
    We don’t see much discussion of the use of or destruction of said tunnel complexes in modern conflicts yet they constantly appear with our adversaries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Serbia, Afghanistan, N. Korea, Iran, Vietnam so name several.
    Someone knowledgeable in dealing with tunnels could post an interesting thread about this perhaps in the future.

  33. Dubhaltach says:

    Hey it could’ve been worse. Imagine if they’d asked for a “Berliner” when they really meant “pfannkuchen” and yes I did and yes they did think that was absolutely hilarious.
    Then they sold me some of the best confectionery I’ve ever eaten and coming from a Dane who lives in the same city as La Glace that’s high praise. If you’re ever in Berlin again it’s a brilliant bakery/konditori called Bäckerei Siebert its between Paul-Robeson-Straße and Bornholmer Straße – get off the light rail and walk towards the park. The bakery with the queue outside it is the one you want.

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Nah, just the crooked timber of mankind – a.k.a. The Fall of Man.

  35. LeaNder says:

    Thanks, Wondook, I already shifted to the history of the Kurds in Syria. Hat tip to whoever mentioned Qamishli, which via a complex Kurdish party scene led me here:
    Tejel, Jordi (2009). “The Qamishli revolt, 2004: the marker of a new era for Kurds in Syria”. Syria’s Kurds: History, Politics and Society. London: Routledge. pp. 108–132.
    Available as pdf via Kurdipedia.org (74488.pdf), I know it’s not legitimate concerning copyright laws, but if someone offers you a book for free on the web to immediately help you to take closer look at one specific event and its context, it’s hard to resist. 😉

  36. LeaNder says:

    hmm, Wondook, more interesting then I expected, not least the author himself.
    On the surface he seems to share Aliza Marcus’ views of Öcalan. I must have responded to the use of his image in the France24 doc somewhat ambivalently too. I guess, I wouldn’t have taken a look on his biography otherwise. …
    Very different takes of the ‘pregnant females’ supposedly misused as suicide bombers Marcus seems to report about in two reviews over here. Interesting image, nevertheless.
    One in DIE ZEIT, pretty short and somewhat nitpicking concerning centrally myth and reality of women’s rights in ‘Kurdistan’. A while ago, I watched a similarly motivated documentary on Arte, I suppose. But they apparently prefer to not descend to the level of the German Wikipedia article. The passage may well need correction.
    The other review is highly critical, apparently from a German Kurdish site in English. Here a different person first ‘gets her pregnant’ and then sends her on a suicide mission. Relying mainly on interviews may no doubt contain traps. On the other hand there surely is an impulse to protect the image of the leader.
    “Sait Cürükkaya (Dr. Süleyman) who poses as an intelligent and sympathetic husband and family father in the book is actually infamous for getting a militant pregnant then sending her off on a suicide bombing mission. Important figures like Terzi Cemal and Hogir which would have shed light on important failures of the early years of the guerrilla warfare are also completely missing. Omissions like these are symptomatic because they all serve the same cause: to blame solely Ocalan for everything that went wrong or bad.”

  37. LeaNder says:

    Ok, one last thing, VV, for whatever it’s worth.
    “The hired mercenaries and contractors don’t have government medical care or pensions.”
    That is one group, no doubt the larger one, there no doubt is a different group too. … There are no doubt such that can easily afford to take care of the medical care and their pension themselves. And surely the private field esteems knowledge in government procedures and overall structures: opening the revolving doors.
    I have to admit, that one witness in a US trial I watched closely fascinated me most and led me to take a more careful look into the various links in his biography.
    He also was rather refreshing, spell rational or seemed far more rational then other actors. Especially in this specific field there were rather crazy assumptions and the usage of non-expert expertise, or fitting assumptions, on both political sides on the issue.
    The start of his career was in the technical field, at one point in time he was, to the extend I recall, hired by a specific branch of the government more or less in his field, technology, development, somewhat more vaguely links led to competitions between firms that give the government a chance to filter out more promising approaches in developments. He wasn’t apparently completely free to report on that part of his biography, to the extend I recall, which he claimed was partly censored.
    He then moved on to a private company in Virginia, to be hired back to the government again. Meaning, for this special player medical care or pension wasn’t his highest concern.

  38. turcopolier says:

    “one witness in a US trial I watched closely fascinated me most and led me to take a more careful look into the various links in his biography” your comment is meaningless if you don’t name him. pl

  39. different clue says:

    Vietnam Vet,
    Sequestration . . . . another gift that keeps on giving, thanks to President Obama. Along with the Bush Tax Cuts being permanent, also thanks to President Obama.

  40. different clue says:

    Dialect . . . dialect . . . once a friend and I were touristing in the Florida Keys and at the hotel I heard some people next to me in the pool talking. They were talking some kind of Englandish dialect. While I could tell it was some kind of Englandish, I couldn’t understand it at all because Ameringlish is the only language I know.

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