Mourners grieve at a funeral for a YPG fighter killed in Raqqa in August. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Nine hundred sixty-eight SDF fighters lost their lives in 2017 in the war against ISIS in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor provinces and battling Turkish forces in western Rojava, the armed force announced on Wednesday.
In the campaign against ISIS in Raqqa, 793 SDF fighters were killed and another 1,685 injured. Raqqa city, the former capital of the terror group’s so-called caliphate, was declared liberated on October 20.
In the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, 162 SDF fighters were killed and another 416 were injured. The Kurdish armed force YPG announced the defeat of ISIS east of the Euphrates River in early December, but military operations continue in the north of the province.
The force stated they killed 7,027 ISIS militants and captured another 1,397 as prisoners of war.
The YPG-led SDF have been the main ally of the US-led coalition on the ground in northern Syria, receiving training, support, and supplies from the multi-national partners.
The SDF stated they are continuing efforts to “create a professional war force” in order to protect the population in the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria, commonly known as Rojava.
The Kurdish-led force controls about a quarter of Syrian territory. The SDF said that through their military offensives over the year, they extended their borders to Iraq in the southeast and the Euphrates River in the south while protecting their northern and western borders against “the occupying Turkish state and the terrorist groups under its control.”
The SDF reported 920 attacks by Turkey and their Syrian militia allies on the western-most Rojava canton of Afrin as well as around Manbij and Kobane throughout the year that resulted in civilian deaths and damage to homes and fields.
Thirteen SDF fighters and sixteen civilians were killed, the SDF stated, claiming to have killed 59 Turkish soldiers and 151 Syrian militiamen.
Ankara considers the Kurdish forces an extension of the PKK, a named terrorist organization. The YPG denies the charge.
The Turkish army has carried out military offensives in Syria in order clear the borders of “terrorists,” Turkish officials have stated, referring to both ISIS and the Kurdish groups.
In the last quarter of 2017, the Turkish army has been constructing observation posts in Syria’s Idlib province, overlooking Afrin canton.
“We will clean Afrin of terrorists, we will clean Manbij of terrorists. We will clean Tel Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and Qamishli of terrorists,” Erdogan said in mid-December.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also threatened to bring the SDF-controlled territory under his government’s control. In November, he said the war will continue until he has secured “all Syrian lands.”
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said it would be “a mistake” for anyone to cross the demarcation line separating the SDF from forces loyal to Assad.
The United States has said they will remain committed to supporting the SDF for the long haul.
“The United States is prepared to remain in Syria until we are certain that ISIS is defeated, stabilization efforts can be sustained, and there is meaningful progress in the Geneva-based political process… ultimately leading to constitutional reform and UN-supervised elections,” US envoy to the coalition Brett McGurk said in a year-end statement.