"ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The US-led international coalition against ISIS provided its allies in Syria with armored vehicles, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said and a US colonel confirmed. “The armored vehicles and troop carriers had arrived four or five days ago,” Talal Silo told Reuters on Tuesday. “Previously we didn't get support in this form, we would get light weapons and ammunition. There are signs of full support from the new American leadership, more than before, for our forces,” he added.
Silo said the vehicles would be used to support the SDF’s ongoing offensive on ISIS-held Raqqa, which the extremist group claimed as its capital. The SDF is a coalition of forces including the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Arab Coalition, and Turkmen and Assyrian elements. During its campaign for Raqqa, the SDF has also added many local fighters to its ranks.
The US-led coalition has been backing the SDF as a key ally on the ground fighting ISIS in northern Syria, providing advice, air support, and some arms. American officials, however, have been very clear that the arms they supply are to the Syrian Arab Coalition and not Kurdish forces, who are dominant members of the SDF. The US is balancing its support of the YPG and SDF with its alliance with fellow NATO member Turkey who considers the YPG to be a terrorist group with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Coalition spokesperson, Col. John Dorrian, confirmed that they have provided vehicles to the Syrian Arab Coalition. "We have provided armored Sport Utility Vehicles to the Syrian Arab Coalition using existing authorities, in the interest of helping protect our partnered force from the [ISIS] improvised-explosive device threat," Dorrian told AFP news agency on Tuesday. "The decision was made by military commanders, and has been in the works for some time.”
The process of delivering the supplies began under the administration of former US President Barack Obama. A US general commented to USA Today in mid-January that the US air force had been increasing airdrops of weapons, ammunition and other equipment to opposition forces who are closing in on Raqqa.
Antony J. Blinken, the former deputy secretary of state in Obama’s administration, wrote an opinion article in the New York Times on Tuesday in which he hinted that current US President Donald Trump would shift US policy towards further arming Kurds in Syria. “In the last days of the Obama administration, the Pentagon said it would immediately seek permission from President Trump to do just that,” Blinken wrote. “It rightly wants to take advantage of the SDF’s momentum in isolating Raqqa.”" (RUDAW)
There are several accounts, photos and videos of the delivery of 200 Guardian light armored personnel carriers to the YPG/SDF. These vehicles seem to be well suited to style of YPG/SDF fighters. My guess is that a lot of their current light trucks are reaching the end of their life cycle and need replacing. This is a suitable upgrade. I bet the embedded Special Forces advisors had a hand in picking these vehicles rather than anything heavier and more complicated.
These will be used in Phase III of Operation Wrath of Euphrates in what has become a classic YPG operation, a double envelopment of Raqqa. The Kurds and their allies are sitting at the north end of the dam at Tabqah. The plan is to take the dam along with Tabqah and then swing east along the southern bank of the Euphrates. A second attack will cross the river between Raqqa and Deir az-Zor and swing to the west. The two prongs of the attack will meet south of Raqqa and isolate the city from the rest of IS held territory. It’s an ambitious plan, but I’m confident the YPG/SDF forces can do this with the more robust support from the U.S. that is surely forthcoming.
In his inauguration address, Trump said he would wipe Islamic State “from the face of the earth.” He won’t do it alone, but I think this Administration, the confoundingly competent fighters of the YPG/SDF and the embedded Green Berets will play a significant part in their final destruction.
* This photo was captioned SDF and US Special Forces crossing the Euphrates River. I never get tired of saying it. "The shit's on, good buddy."