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ISIS captives and ideology pose serious ongoing threat

A place to talk about domestic politics in Middle East (Iran, Iraq , Turkey, Syria) Also includes topics about Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean .

ISIS captives and ideology pose serious ongoing threat

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:23 am

No YPG forces in Syria safe zone with Turkey

Washington is working with Turkey to establish a safe zone along the border of northern Syria which excludes the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), US Syria envoy James Jeffrey told a press briefing Monday

Commenting on the latest developments in the US-led coalition strategy in Syria following the defeat of the Islamic State group (ISIS) in Baghouz, northeast Syria on Saturday, the US special representative for Syria engagement said this is what US President Donald Trump had agreed with his Turkish counterpart.

“In terms of the Kurds, what we are working with is with Turkey to have a safe zone of some length along the Turkish border where there would be no YPG forces because Turkey feels very nervous about the YPG and their ties to the PKK. We understand that President Trump has made that clear to President Erdogan,” Jeffrey said.

“But we also do not want anyone mishandling our SDF partners, some of whom are Kurds, so therefore we are working for a solution that will meet everybody’s needs,” he added.

Although the US will maintain a residual force in northeast Syria, Jeffrey said the role of the coalition is to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS – not to operate safe zones.

“We’re not really looking at a coalition to be peacekeepers or anything like that. We’re asking coalition personal to continue to contribute and to up their contribution to our de-ISIS operations in Syria, and we’re getting a pretty good response initially. But the mission is de-ISIS, defeat of ISIS, it’s not to operate in any safe zone,” he said.

The YPG makes up the backbone of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which led the ground war against ISIS across northern Syria. However, Ankara views the YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group fighting for greater Kurdish political and cultural rights in Turkey. Both groups deny the link.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to invade Kurdish-held northeast Syria, expanding its 2018 ‘Olive Branch’ operation which saw Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies seize Afrin from the YPG.

The presence of US-led coalition forces helped shield this fledgling autonomous administration from attack.

Now ISIS has been defeated in northeast Syria, SDF commanders fear the international coalition will withdraw, leaving them exposed to attack.

Jeffrey insisted the US mission in northeast Syria is not over, despite the ongoing drawdown.

“This is not the end of the fight against ISIS. That will go on, but it will be a different kind of fight,” Jeffrey said.

“ISIS has lost much of its capability to project terrorist power and to have a recruiting base in an area that it controls. So it’s a very, very important development.”

“Our forces will stay on in very limited numbers in the northeast to continue our clearing operations and stability operations against ISIS for a period of time not to be determined at this point,” he added.

Jeffrey said the withdrawal began “right after the President announced it in December, first with priority on equipment but now beginning on forces being withdrawn.”

“We had to reinforce initially to bring in more combat power and now we’re going back down towards what the final number will be,” he added.

'We do not tolerate threats'

Redur Khalil, an SDF spokesperson, told Rudaw the SDF does not want another war in the region, but will resist if attacked.

“If the geography that is liberated with war and under our control is under threat, we will not remain silent. We will use channels to protect our rights and we do not tolerate threats posed to our nation in this geography,” Khalil said, speaking at a ceremony to mark the territorial defeat of ISIS on Saturday.

“We paid with thousands of martyrs not for a fresh invasion of our territory or to allow their authority over us,” Khalil said.

“As the SDF, we will protect this land to the end.”

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/250320192
Last edited by Anthea on Sun Apr 07, 2019 2:42 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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ISIS captives and ideology pose serious ongoing threat

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Re: No YPG forces in Syria safe zone with Turkey

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Mar 26, 2019 5:12 am

The US, along with other members of the coalition, intend to leave the Turkish invasion force inside Syrian borders

Am I the only person who thinks this is wrong?

YPG and PKK both say there is no connection between them

Let us be realistic:

Highly trained, experienced, Kurdish fighters went into Syria to help the fight against ISIS

Without their experience and determination to protect the inhabitants of Western Kurdistan, along with larger parts of Syria, Syria would have remained under ISIS control

It seems that now the Kurds have done the job of calming ISIS the US will turn their back on them

I use the word term "calming ISIS" because I doubt that ISIS has gone very far

One cannot kill an idea

Has the US and coalition forgotten that a great many non combatant Sunni Muslims were sympathetic towards ISIS

When the Kurds killed ISIS fighters, they did so at fairly close quarters, sadly losing a great many of it's own fighters

When the US and coalition bombed ISIS they slaughtered a lot of innocent people

I have a feeling that there are still a lot of ISIS supporters in Syria and Iraq, as well as a large number who have entered the US and Europe

Now the US intend to desert the Kurds and leave them at the mercy of both remaining ISIS supporters and Turkish invaders
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Re: US agrees no YPG forces in Syria safe zone with Turkey

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:57 pm

Kurds seek global tribunal for ISIS fighters

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria has called for the creation of an international tribunal to try thousands of suspected members of the Islamic State (ISIS) group

One official, Abdul Karim Omar, told the BBC they were struggling to cope with the thousands who emerged from the last ISIS enclave of Baghuz, in the east.

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the village last week.

About 1,000 foreign fighters are among the thousands held by Kurds in prisons.

The men are said to come from some 50 countries.

US President Donald Trump hailed the capture of Baghuz although he said the US would "remain vigilant" as the group remains a threat.

At its height, IS controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) across Syria and Iraq.

While it no longer holds this territory, US officials believe ISIS may have 15,000 to 20,000 armed adherents active in the region, many of them in sleeper cells, and that it will return to its insurgent roots while attempting to rebuild.

In a statement, the Kurdish administration called for "a special international tribunal in north-east Syria to prosecute terrorists" to ensure that trials are "conducted fairly and in accordance with international law and human rights covenants and charters".

Speaking to the BBC, the administration's head of foreign affairs, Abdul Karim Omar, said the fact so few nations had repatriated their citizens who joined IS has added to their problems.

Many Western governments have refused to repatriate their citizens amid concerns over the potential security risks they may pose, as well as the challenges of gathering evidence to support prosecutions.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-47704464
What did the Kurds say?
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Re: US agrees no YPG forces in Syria safe zone with Turkey

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:10 pm

Earlier I stated:
    I have a feeling that there are still a lot of ISIS supporters in Syria and Iraq, as well as a large number who have entered the US and Europe
and
    Now the US intend to desert the Kurds and leave them at the mercy of both remaining ISIS supporters and Turkish invaders
It is much worse that the US will be pulling out after admitting:

    US officials believe ISIS may have 15,000 to 20,000 armed adherents active in the region, many of them in sleeper cells, and that it will return to its insurgent roots while attempting to rebuild.
Leaving Kurds on their own to cope with the very real prospect of these sleeper cells becoming active once the US has pulled out

Never mind the fact that after all the fighting and dying Kurds suffered to rid Syria of ISIS, Kurds will now be stuck with THOUSANDS of ISIS jihadists

Kurds cannot afford to give their own people secure accommodation or even start to rebuild towns that ISIS destroyed

NOW KURDS HAVE TO SUPPORT ISIS SAVAGES
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Re: US leaving Kurds to support thousands ISIS savages

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:31 pm

Under UK law prisoners have to be well looked after and all their needs cared for

This means they actually have more rights to hot food and warmth etc than innocent pensioners, many of whom cannot afford proper heating or warm food

Will Kurds have to treat their murderous prisoners better than the half-starved refugees in camps

Or the poor Yazidis, many of whom have spent years living on the mountains in cold leaky tents with barely enough food to survive on. They are left watching as yet more mass graves are unearthed and hoping their missing relations are not among the dead

BRILLIANT IDEA:

A committee of Yazidis to decided the fate of ISIS savages
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Re: US leaving Kurds to support thousands ISIS savages

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:25 pm

ISIS Is Like a Chronic Disease
It can be managed but never really cured

By Graeme Wood

Four years ago, a sympathizer of the Islamic State told me that the group’s caliphate was hardier than believed and would survive near-total loss of territorial control

“So long as there is one street in one village where the caliph carries out Islamic law,” he told me, “the dawla will be legitimate.” (“Dawla” means state in Arabic.) All Muslims would remain obliged to travel there, he said. (It would be one very crowded street.) No rival caliph could challenge Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s leader, as long as he ruled this alley and did it according to Islam.

Last week, the caliphate finally dwindled down to that one alley, and on Saturday it vanished entirely.

The Syrian Democratic Forces sacked the Islamic State’s last minuscule barrio in the town of Baghuz, in eastern Syria, after a weekslong siege. “One street in one village” may overstate the size of that last patch. In a recent video attributed to the Islamic State, apparently from just days ago, the area looked like a small junkyard defended by vagrants.

Several years back, the Islamic State circulated videos of its fighters living among swimming pools and well-stocked shops. In the junkyard videos, it looked as if no one had bathed for weeks. Many of the inhabitants hobbled around on crutches, and some of the few working vehicles were wheelchairs.

To see the Islamic State reduced to these indignities is a pleasure worth savoring. Now that we’ve savored it, though, it is time to confront the threat that remains — which is not merely, as President Trump claimed this weekend, “losers” who will “resurface” “on occasion.” It is a systemic threat.

More than 40,000 foreigners are thought to have traveled to territory controlled by the Islamic State, and most are missing. David Malet, a political scientist at American University who studies foreign fighters, told me recently that when such combatants have traveled to war zones in the past, they have died at a rate of about one-third. Even if we assume that, say, half of the Islamic State’s foreigner fighters are dead — after all, many joined the group to die — that leaves about 20,000 alive.

We have little idea where they are and seriously undercounted them in Baghuz. In recent weeks, Islamic State fighters and civilians have emerged from the town as if from a clown car, disgorged in ever more unbelievable numbers. The most astonishing sight over the past week may have been a video showing fighters who had surrendered, preferring captivity to martyrdom, in a line stretching more than 250 men long. Yet many more fighters may be hiding in the countryside than have turned themselves over or died in Baghuz.

The Islamic State has had years to prepare for this moment and for some time had signaled that it was resigned to eventually losing some or all of its territory. By May 2016, its spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, was telling followers abroad not to bother traveling to Syria.

“If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State, then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor,” he said in an audio message. Since then, some sympathizers had stayed in the shrinking caliphate, while others stayed abroad or slunk out of the doomed territory to perpetuate the group’s ideals and re-spawn it elsewhere.

To see how slinking is done right, they needed only look to their forefathers. The founders of the Islamic State consisted of Qaeda veterans who escaped destruction by the American military and Sunni tribes in Iraq. Tactical retreat served them well, and the Islamic State has not lost the institutional wisdom that allowed those men to survive and then recapture territory, first slowly, then in 2014 all at once. They succeeded by positioning themselves as guardians of Sunnis who did not trust the Shiite-led government in Baghdad or the Alawite-led one in Damascus. Neither Iraq nor Syria has restored Sunnis’ trust.

Of the more than 40,000 foreigners who joined the Islamic State, several thousand have returned to their home countries — not always to face prosecution. Some pessimists worry that these returnees constitute a fifth column, outwardly rehabilitated but secretly ready to attack on command. History suggests that our concerns should not be so narrow.

The danger comes not just from plotters but also from their ideas. The spread of Islamic State ideology long predated the declaration of a caliphate, and it happened quietly, through the efforts of remarkably few individuals. Returnees from jihad do not always fight again, but their passion can infect others. Arab veterans of the Afghan war in the 1980s influenced the generation that fought in Iraq. The number of returnees from the Islamic State now may dwarf them.

In a few years, even some of those convicted of terrorist offenses will be free again. (Remember, Europeans tend not to lock up people for as long as Americans do.) Consider John Walker Lindh, the American who fought for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in 2002. He is scheduled for release in May and appears to have remained a devout extremist. Such ideas do not reliably dissolve with time. They sometimes become more concentrated. Prepare for a new wave of true believers, recruited by the old.

The Islamic State is like herpes: It can be managed but never cured. Syria is scabbing over, and it might begin to heal. Elsewhere, though, the condition is dormant at best. It will break out again

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/opin ... eated.html
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Re: US leaving Kurds to support thousands ISIS savages

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:07 pm

Suspected IS sleeper cells step up assassinations, attacks in eastern Syria after SDF ‘victory’ in Baghouz

AMMAN: Islamic State sleeper cells are assassinating local officials and laying roadside bombs across eastern Syria, where the militant group is exploiting a fragile security situation despite losing its final territorial foothold in Syria earlier this week.

The Islamic State (IS) attacks have reportedly claimed the lives of dozens of commanders and fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa, Deir e-Zor and Hasakah provinces since last month, when SDF forces began closing in on the final stronghold of IS fighters in Baghouz.

Although a ground campaign spearheaded by the SDF finally wrested control of the riverside encampment in Deir e-Zor province from IS earlier this week, shootings, bombings and suicide attacks—most either claimed by or attributed to IS—have struck local authorities and US-backed Kurdish forces in other areas of eastern Syria.

Suspected IS sleeper cells have repeatedly attacked Hasakah province, where the SDF is well-entrenched and headquartered, although many of these IS operations have struck remote targets in Syria’s eastern desert rather than urban areas.

Meanwhile, in Deir e-Zor and Raqqa provinces, the current focal point of clandestine IS activity, a half dozen local officials, journalists and civilians describe near-daily attacks and widespread fears of escalating violence in former IS-held territory. Their testimonies, combined with reports by local activists and pro-opposition media outlets active in the region, point to a marked increase in bombings and assassinations in recent weeks.

“With IS’ recent battlefield collapse, it’s started resorting to suicide attacks at every chance it sees,” Kanaan Barakat, interior minister of the Kurdish-led Self-Administration that governs most of northeastern and eastern Syria, told Syria Direct.

“And with the SDF’s victory announcement over IS, [the group] will continue striking civilian and military targets,” he added. “They’ve begun using new types of operations: sleeper cells and individual attacks.”

In one of the most recent reported attacks targeting SDF-linked officials and fighters, IS militants opened fire on a checkpoint west of Manbij city in northeastern Aleppo province on March 26, killing seven SDF fighters. Unofficial IS social media channels later claimed responsibility for the attack.

On March 25, an IED explosion in northern Hasakah’s Ras al-Ain killed two fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish fighting force that comprises the bulk of the SDF.

And two days before Monday’s explosion, on March 23, an IS cell in northern Hasakah province detonated another roadside bomb, killing a YPG commander and two of the group’s fighters, pro-opposition news outlets reported.

On the same day, other attacks—later claimed by IS through the group’s unofficial social media channels—struck SDF checkpoints and other targets in roughly a half dozen villages and towns across Deir e-Zor province.

While the SDF’s official website and social media channels release statistics for battlefield deaths against IS and Turkish-backed forces in northwestern Syria’s Kurdish-majority Afrin region, there are no statistics for recent insurgent attacks in the east of the country.

Without adequate Internet or statistics released by local authorities in these areas, Syria Direct was unable to independently verify each reported attack.

Several SDF sources were unavailable for comment before publication.

A mounting insurgency?

Analysts and local officials have long warned of a coming insurgency in former IS territory, even after the group’s battlefield defeat. Now, without any territory firmly under its control, IS appears to have launched a burgeoning campaign of hit-and-run attacks.

While the hardline group maintains a scattered presence in the region since losing its last territorial foothold, increased IS activity over the past month signals that the hardline group’s forces remain active in areas formerly under its control.

The transition in tactics is not sudden. The group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” once controlled a massive swathe of territory across Iraq and Syria, with 10 million civilians living under its control.

After five years of simultaneous ground offensives by the US-backed SDF on one side and the Syrian army on the other, IS’ territory shrank to a small stretch of desert along the Euphrates River in southern Deir e-Zor province late last year.

Surrounded, by February the hardline group’s so-called “caliphate” was limited to a small riverside encampment near the town of Baghouz.

International journalists perched just outside of the camp recorded images and video of a surreal landscape: thousands of fighters, their families and captives living in squalor—the militants flanked on all sides.

Artillery bombardment and airstrikes pounded the camp for weeks as thousands of IS fighters and civilians surrendered themselves to the SDF.

Others holed up along the river’s banks for the final stand-off.

Photos of that final battle’s aftermath, shared by activists on social media, showed a grim scene: burned-out vehicles and the charred bodies of men, women and children littered the hellish camp landscape.

The SDF livestreamed a press conference from Deir e-Zor province on March 24 to announce “victory” over IS. Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, wrote on Twitter that IS’ “so-called caliphate” had finally been “eliminated.”

Even so, SDF leadership have made it clear that the victory was only partial.

Mazlum Kobane, the SDF’s commander-in-chief, wrote in an op-ed published earlier this week that, although IS’ territorial caliphate has come to an end, “major challenges [lie] ahead” for the region.

Kobane’s report warned of “sleeper cells planted by the terrorist organization,” and the rise of an insurgency “employing tactics of individual terrorist acts such as bombings and assassinations.”

The situation could worsen further after a partial withdrawal of US forces announced by US President Donald Trump earlier this year, that would see the number of American servicemen in Syria drop to only several hundred, Kobani warned.

“The vacuum of power...will undoubtedly be exploited.”

‘Sophisticated efforts’

As the SDF gradually captured territory from IS in Syria’s eastern desert over the past several years, thousands of hardline militants began preparing for an insurgent campaign in eastern Syria long before losing Baghouz, said Institute for the Study of War (ISW) researcher Brandon Wallace.

“The US-backed campaign to defeat the IS pocket along the Euphrates River Valley did destroy IS’ territorial control, but it displaced IS fighters in the process,” Wallace told Syria Direct.

These displaced fighters reinforced sleeper cells in the region, which “started preparations for an insurgency long before the SDF completed ground operations,” he said.

“These cells operate with coordination. The IS insurgent attacks in eastern Syria are well designed.”

Last month, IS militants attempted to assassinate Deir e-Zor Military Council commander Abu Khawla along the Hasakah-Deir e-Zor highway. A day earlier, on February 14, a separate assassination attempt targeted SDF and Deir e-Zor Military Council spokesperson Leilawa al-Abdullah on the same stretch of road.

“These attacks failed, but demonstrate that IS is sophisticated enough to identify and target the officials critical to stabilization efforts,” said Wallace.

Meanwhile, the SDF must also contend with a complex patchwork of local communities: some actively supportive of IS, others suspicious of what they regard as a Kurdish-led force occupying traditionally Arab areas of eastern Syria.

Although the SDF is largely responsible for driving out IS from much of eastern Deir e-Zor and Raqqa provinces, local residents and officials say that certain villages and towns remain hostile to the SDF. Some even remain sympathetic to IS.

Eastern Syria is an ethnically rich region, with Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs and others populating Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir e-Zor provinces. Eight years of war have in many cases inflamed tensions between the groups—something that IS seeks to exploit.

“Once the SDF campaign cleared an Arab area, it left in place a Syrian-Kurdish system of stablization and governance,” Wallace told Syria Direct. “Syria now has several areas with sympathetic populations to IS governed by a structure that is not the product of the local population.”

‘Diverse targets’

The divide between the SDF and local populations allows IS to operate with impunity in many areas technically under SDF control, according to the mayor of one Deir e-Zor town.

“It’s become clear that these IS sleeper cells are activating themselves, and it’s easy for them to communicate with their leadership,” the mayor told Syria Direct, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“There are villages that don’t consider IS enemies,” he added. “These sleeper cells find a popular base to help keep themselves hidden—locals either like them, or they fear them.”

The SDF’s focus on the battle for Baghouz drew its forces away from patrolling other areas under its control in Deir e-Zor and Raqqa, the mayor says, making movement and activity there “risk-free.”

Alleged IS attacks in eastern Syria are not limited to SDF targets alone, says Self-Administration Interior Minister Barakat, adding that the militants are in fact striking “diverse targets.”

“The [IS] operations are not particularly precise,” Barakat told Syria Direct. “The important thing [for IS] is to cause fear and panic among people, so they strike both civilians and military personnel.”

It is a sentiment echoed by the mayor in Deir e-Zor. “It’s killing for the sake of killing," he said. "There’s no differentiation between civilian, politician or soldier.”

Fear of more violence is palpable in many formerly IS-held areas in eastern Syria, according to Omran Ahmad, a resident of rural Deir e-Zor province.

“Not a day goes by without us hearing about a new assassination,” Ahmad, who asked his name and precise location be withheld, told Syria Direct. “These [IS] operations make the region unstable.”

“People don’t want to rebuild their homes or restart their lives here [fearing more violence]. It’s gotten to the point that people stay home and don’t go out at night, because it’s too unsafe.”

https://syriadirect.org/news/suspected- ... ddZDEmYhiU
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Re: ISIS still active in Syria as US leaves Kurds to fight a

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Mar 29, 2019 2:34 am

Turkey’s presence in Syria
more dangerous than ISIS


Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) Spokesperson Emced Osman spoke to ANHA and said, “In order to protect the gains achieved in Northern and Eastern Syria, international forces must support this region,” and continued to make important analyses

Emced Osman said the SDF achieved a historic victory and continued: “The defeat of ISIS is a great victory. Turkey and several others continue to threaten these gains, and want the SDF victories gone. These gains must be politically protected. The victories achieved by the SDF should serve the solution to issues in Syria.

The solution to the current crisis in Syria can’t succeed without representatives from Northern and Eastern Syria. There have been many meetings and summits on the crisis, but none of them achieved results because representatives of the region were not included. If they continue to disregard the will of the people of the region, issues in Syria will only grow.”

“DEFEAT OF ISIS IS A VICTORY FOR SYRIA IN GENERAL”

Osman said many countries have celebrated the SDF’s victory against ISIS but some authorities like the Syrian regime haven’t reacted at all. Stating that the defeat of ISIS is a victory for Syria in general, Osman continued: “The force that ended ISIS was the SDF. All countries should see this success.

This day, this victory was achieved with 11.000 martyrs. Nobody should look down on that. The will of the people and the gains achieved by the SDF must also take their place in the future. We favor a united and decentralized Syria. The forces that oppose Syria’s unity want a rupture. In any case, we are open to any and all topics of discussion.”

“THE TRUE DANGER IS POWERS THAT SUPPORT ISIS”

Osman said there is no difference between ISIS gangs and the gangs in Afrin, Bab, Jarablus and Azaz. Osman added: “International powers should put forth a clear stand against the presence of these gangs in the region. The true danger is the powers that support ISIS and other gang groups under different names. If countries like Turkey continue to support the gangs, the possibility will remain that the gangs will re-emerge. Turkey is in control in Jarablus, Afrin and Idlib. In Afrin, there is a genocide in progress in front of the whole world to see. The Turkish state is engaged in openly invasionist policies in the region but unfortunately no global power has put forth any harsh stance against this at all.”

“TURKEY’S PRESENCE IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN ISIS”

MSD Spokesperson Emced Osman pointed out that there is a great threat against Northern and Eastern Syria and said: “Attacks and threats by the invading Turkish state is a threat for Northern and Eastern Syria, but they are also a threat for the whole world. Like ISIS threatened all countries in various ways, Turkey is threatening all with the policies they implement. Turkey’s threats are more dangerous than ISIS. Their goal is to invade the Northern and Eastern Syria region and invade all of the Middle East. To stop that, international powers should support the defense of Northern and Eastern Syria.”

WHO ARE THE GANGS??
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Re: Turkey’s presence in Syria more dangerous than ISIS

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:31 pm

Syrian Kurds aim to remove
Turkey from Afrin by force


The main U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria expects to soon launch a military operation to liberate Afrin from Turkey and its proxies, the militia’s commander said in a televised interview

“We are preparing and making arrangements in order to liberate Afrin,” Ferhat Abdi Şahin, general commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Kurdish Sterk TV last week, according to the military news site SouthFront. “Because this is a military matter, everyone should know that when the time is suitable, the liberation phase will begin.”

The SDF has been the primary local militia in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), and cleared the last ISIS stronghold last week.

The Turkish military and its Syrian proxies took over Afrin in the beginning of 2018 following a short battle with Kurdish forces. In February, the SDF vowed to focus on liberating Afrin after the defeat of ISIS.

Şahin added that all SDF groups, including Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), had confirmed their readiness to participate in the liberation.

“Afrin is not only a Kurdish area, but a Syrian area,” he said. “It’s within the SDF’s mission to protect all Syria territory.”

https://ahvalnews.com/turkey-kurds/syri ... -commander
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Re: Syrian Kurds aim to remove Turkey from Afrin by force

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:46 pm

For Syria's Kurds:
Real battle is just beginning


It was early February, and the main thoroughfare through Hajin was a mess of concrete and rebar. Structures were toppled, and children played in the wreckage, surrounded by unexploded artillery shells poking from the earth like daisies

The small town in the Euphrates River Valley in southeastern Syria had long been a Kurdish outpost and, until recently, a battlefield amid the death rattle of the Islamic State militant group. American and French munitions and warplanes, backing

Kurdish-led militias, repeatedly blasted ISIS forces here, reducing the extremists’ self-declared caliphate to a tiny sliver of territory—and then to nothing.

But as Kurdish civilians began returning from displaced-persons camps, there was a deep sense among locals that victory was far from assured and peace far from secure.

ISIS was not so much falling as transforming. Instead of an occupying army, it was becoming a stateless insurgency, directing suicide bombings, setting up roadside bombs and installing random checkpoints to trap unsuspecting civilians into pledging continued allegiance.

More concerning for the Kurds, though, was another development: the U.S. exit from Syria. Having declared ISIS defeated, President Donald Trump announced in December plans to withdraw the roughly 2,000 American troops that, for the past four years, had trained, armed and supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The partnership not only fostered military victory but also lent unprecedented political clout to the Kurds, a historically marginalized minority. The SDF came to control about a quarter of Syria’s territory amid the country’s bloody civil war, with oversight of valuable farming and energy resources.

Kurdish leaders had hoped that this elevated status—and the U.S. alliance—would lead to a new model of self-governance, if not total autonomy, for their people in Syria. But now, with the impending U.S. withdrawal, those dreams are quickly dwindling.

The Kurds face existential threats from all sides. Turkey views the Kurds—and the SDF-affiliated militia known as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)—as terrorists, and it backed a two-month offensive in the city of Afrin to prevent the Kurds from gaining a foothold in northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also determined to shrink the group’s territory, eager to retake lands that the Kurds adopted as they swept ISIS from city after city. For the most part, the presence of American troops has served as a deterrent.

Now, the Kurds see a simple equation: Either the Americans stay and stabilize the region, or they leave and put the Kurds in their neighbors’ crosshairs. “There is no third option,” says my driver Osama, who asked me not to use his last name for fear of retribution. “The war in Syria is like the Third World War.”

Political confusion is not new to the Kurds. The Ottoman Empire largely ignored them until oil was discovered in what is today northern Iraq, due east of Syria’s Rojava region. After World War I, Britain took over, and its feckless divisions of land left out the Kurds—a legacy that still haunts the region.

Tension has been most pronounced in Turkey, where, since the 1980s, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has waged an insurgency for autonomy. Like Turkey, both the U.S. and the European Union have long designated the PKK a terrorist organization.

But as the Arab Spring arose and Syria descended into civil war, allegiances began to blur. All sides soon found a common enemy in ISIS, which capitalized on the unrest and seized large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria, creating a rogue state the size of Britain. The YPG led the fight against ISIS in the region, and, in 2014, the U.S. approved plans to arm it and support its military campaign with airstrikes. Troops followed, mostly in advisory roles.

The U.S. presence in Syria, however, has always been shadowy, so much so that soldiers do not wear patches to denote their military company insignia. (Their commanders denied requests for interviews.) The military is not there by U.N. mandate, and Congress never authorized occupation. Despite this, the U.S. built bases in the Kurdish north.

For the U.S., staying could be as bad as withdrawing. Not only are troops’ lives on the line but the commitment could mean spending billions of dollars more on a conflict with no foreseeable end. It also runs the risk of a devolving situation, like Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have advised a nearly 20-year peacekeeping mission that only recently has seen movement toward promising peace talks. Moreover, an U.S. military presence in a country that does not sponsor it is a foreign policy more akin to colonization.

All of this has driven Trump’s desire to, as he put it, “get out.” The president’s sudden announcement in December of plans for an immediate withdrawal shocked the Kurds, as well as his own administration; Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigned, as did the special presidential envoy to the international coalition fighting ISIS.

The international backlash prompted Trump to reverse course, and in February he offered a compromise: a “peacekeeping” force of 400 troops—half to counter Iran, which supported Assad in the civil war, and half to back the Kurds in a “safe zone” on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Some experts see a continued U.S. presence as key, both for the Kurdish-led coalition forces, which have grown to an estimated 60,000 with American funding, and for a U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

In 2018, Turkish forces invaded Kurdish territory in northwestern Syria. When the SDF moved to fight them, ISIS staged a comeback. Even with U.S. air support, the militia was spread too thin.

“If the United States were to disappear tomorrow, just poof , the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition would collapse,” says Max Markusen, associate director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, D.C. “Turkey would invade. That’s the first thing that would happen.”

Then there’s the threat of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda affiliate that has grown to hold 5 percent of northwestern Syria, opposite the Kurds’ territory. These small pockets of insurgents—similar to those in Afghanistan, as well as the ISIS affiliates in Africa and the Philippines—could be seeds for future conflict. Last fall, Jennifer Cafarella, a research director and Syria analyst at the nonprofit Institute for the Study of War, outlined the risk.

“The experience of the Syrian war will be as formative for Al-Qaeda as the Afghan jihad,” she said. “Syria is the next Afghanistan.”

For now, the Kurds seem to be exploring all options.

In December, Kurdish representatives turned to Assad in the hopes of forming an alliance, perhaps undermining and signaling the end of their fight for some sort of autonomy. They are also looking to Washington, which has sent conflicting signals in recent weeks.

In late March, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. military leaders were drafting plans to keep as many as 1,000 troops in Syria—the product of protracted talks and disagreement among American, European, Turkish and Kurdish leaders over how a Syrian “safe zone” would work. But in the hours after publication, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared the report “factually inaccurate.”

“We continue to implement the president’s direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence,” he said in a statement.

Among the people, sentiment toward the U.S. is mixed. Some, like Abdullah Salim, a 30-year-old farmer from Hajin, express bravado about the ability of Kurdish forces to protect him, regardless of American help. “If ISIS returns or if Turkish invaders come here, the tribes of the area will push them back,” he says. “And we will do the same if the Assad regime attacks us.”

But others describe a more tenuous existence, dependent on U.S. troops. Warshin Sheko, a 27-year-old appliance salesman in Manbij, fled Syria during the civil war and lived in Turkey for four years before returning home in February. His town sits at the crossroads of regime territory, to the south, and areas controlled by Turkey, to the west and north. It is also the gateway into the independent region of Rojava, where the majority of Kurds live.

“Our cousins were calling us and telling us that the conditions were fine and stable, and they were saying no one would wrong us,” he tells me as he warms his hands over a gas stove in his shop. “But when they say that the Americans will leave, I, frankly, got very sad. I tell my cousins that we will see what happens. The situation is good now, as Americans are there, and that the area is stable, and that people have good jobs and are working.”

Khamis Mohammed, a 42-year-old shop owner in Manbij, also maintains that America must stay to protect the Kurds. “As a fact, as long as America is here,” he says, “Turkey cannot do anything.”

ISIS, however, can. As the final battles for land played out in March, U.S. military leaders warned that the group was simply changing form as it lost its last speck of territory in Syria.

“What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but, in fact, a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities,” General Joseph Votel, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told lawmakers. “The ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remains unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized.”

A few days before I visited Syria, four Americans—two U.S. soldiers, a Defense Department civilian and a contractor—were killed in a suicide attack outside a Manbij restaurant frequented by Westerners. As many as 16 additional civilians died in the January 16 attack, which members of ISIS claimed, although the group had not been a presence in the city for more than four years.

Within a week, the restaurant was cleaned and open for business. Abu Omar, 30, watched the scene from a nearby storefront. “The bomb blast was a terrorist act, and it harmed the civilians and the environment more than it harmed the Americans, who are there to defend us and fight for us,” he says. “We want to have a decent life where humans can live with dignity, and we want to have a quiet life where no suicide bombers kill our children.”

    Kenneth R. Rosen won the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Award for war correspondents and a Clarion Award, and he was a finalist for the Livingston Award for international reporting for his reporting from Iraq

https://www.newsweek.com/2019/04/12/aft ... 83666.html
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Re: For Syria's Kurds, the real battle is just beginning

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 07, 2019 2:41 pm

YPG: ISIS captives and ideology
pose serious ongoing threat


On March 23, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the territorial defeat of the Islamic State group (ISIS) in northern Syria. Tens of thousands of ISIS militants and their families poured out of the group’s last holdout of Baghouz, Deir ez-Zor province. The SDF was handed the mammoth task of screening this cold, hungry, and traumatized wave of humanity to identify which were civilians, hostages, or die-hard Islamists

Thousands have been moved to the vastly overcrowded camp of Al-Hol in Hasaka province. Suspected fighters meanwhile have been taken to the many prisons controlled by the SDF. Here they await a decision by the international community to seal their fate – a decision which is yet to materialize.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) makes up the backbone of the SDF, which led the ground offensive against ISIS with coalition air support. YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud tells Rudaw although the fighting has finished, the SDF still needs international help to process ISIS prisoners, eliminating its sleeper cells, rehabilitate indoctrinated women and children, and achieve justice for the group’s victims.

A member of US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands guard at a reception area for people evacuated from the last shred of territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghouz, Syria, March 6, 2019. Photo: Gabriel Chaim / APA member of US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands guard at a reception area for people evacuated from the last shred of territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghouz, Syria, March 6, 2019. Photo: Gabriel Chaim / AP

Rudaw: What is the fate of ISIS captives? What are you planning to do with them?

Most of them are trying to reach places like Idlib, al-Bab, Jarabulus and others

Nouri Mahmoud: We can say that geographically [ISIS] is defeated but there are still some remaining important terrorists. A great number of terrorists in Baghouz were those who governed Daesh [ISIS]. Additionally, their families and children still believe that they can one day establish a terror state. These are now under the control of our forces such as the YPG, YPJ, and Syrian Democratic Forces.

We can say that these [people] pose a potential danger as they are trying to reorganize in the camps and receive terror education once again. Security forces are doing their best to prevent this terror ideology. Most of them are trying to reach places like Idlib, al-Bab, Jarabulus and others.

Therefore, there is a great potential threat that they can reorganize again. If we want to take serious measures to prevent the resurgence [of ISIS] we need international support and decisions from the international coalition in the same way they fought [ISIS] alongside our forces and prevailed. It requires an international court.”

What kind of international court?

These terrorists have not only conducted terrorist acts against Rojava or northern Syria, but the whole world. They have conducted terror activities in Europe, Asia, the United States, and many other countries. They also announced [their power] in some Middle East countries. There will be cases against these terrorist from [people] outside Syria. Therefore, it requires an international court.

Where is the best place to hold such trials? If in Rojava, which city is most appropriate?

In Western Kurdistan [Rojava].

Some say it shall be in Kobane. Why Kobane?

As a matter of fact, this is because both the Kurdish agreement [referring to YPG-Peshmerga joint forces against ISIS] and the international agreement took place in Kobane. It would be good to be in Kobane as a symbolic thing. However, the important thing is the trial of these [ISIS captives] … considers the rights of the whole world against these terrorists and takes measures against them. These terrorists have psychological issues and believe that they will go to paradise with the terror they are doing against us.

What laws will these captives be tried under? Rojavan, Syrian, or international?

Actually, in Rojava and northern Syria these terrorists are tried as per decisions of legal councils of cantons and the northern Syria administration. These are deemed as emergency trials. However, these people have to be tried by an international court as per international laws and deals in order to respect the rights of each person in the world who has complained against them.

And if there is no international court and ISIS captives are not repatriated, what will happen to the captives?

Actually, the people of northern Syria, our YPG, YPJ and Syrian Democratic Forces, have made great sacrifices in this region, protecting it, Syria and the world with the support of the coalition forces. But today the captive terrorists could reorganize and again develop terrorism. This is an ideology. It is not just related to geography. The international community shall take the responsibility of resolving them in terms of security, psychology, medicine, material, food and health. It is going to be very difficult for the people of northern Syria – who face an embargo – to handle it.

Who pays for the needs of ISIS captives? You?

Yes, most of the cost is paid by the self-governed administration. There are some international organizations who do not talk with the self-governed administration but with Damascus. Therefore, most of the aid is received through Damascus which usually hampers the aid from the UN and Red Cross. Northern Syria makes up 32-35 percent of Syrian territory and more than 40 percent of Syrian people live in the region in addition to foreign refugees and terrorists.

However, these international organizations still hold talks with Damascus, not northern Syria, which is a great part of Syria. Therefore, this is a burden on the self-governed administration. The international community has to take into consideration the current situation in northern Syria, see the potential threats by terrorists who live in our camp, and take international measure as per the threats.

Have you discussed the issue of ISIS captives with the Syrian government?

As the YPG or military forces, we do not have any relations with the Syrian government to discuss this. But, as we have said before, the Syrian Democratic Council diplomatically represents us. Therefore, any decision taken by them is significant for us. However, there are no relations with the regime so far.

How many Kurds are among the ISIS captives?

Concerning numbers, we cannot now reveal any realistic or one hundred percent accurate figure as investigations are underway. There are many Daesh militants at the camps still under the group’s influence refusing to disclose their identity and giving false names. They do not reveal their original identity. So, our forces continue to conduct their investigations to weed out those not tied to the group especially members of our Yezidi community.

Are you planning to set up particular prisons?

First, these people will have to be dealt with by law. Second, the extremist ideology be removed from their minds. In other words, they will have to be rehabilitated.

Yes, efforts are underway. Our self-administration’s relevant authorities and humanitarian organizations at the camps are working to influence those refusing to reveal their identity so we can separate them from the terrorists.

Does holding such a large number of ISIS militants pose a security threat?

Of course. The matter of the presence of Daesh militants held by us is not related to one day, two days, three days, or a year or more. It is a long term subject. Many of them are subject to life imprisonment. Others may face up to 10 years imprisonment.

The militants’ families … they were pledging to educate their children in the terror ideology and once again fight against humanity while fleeing from Baghouz. That is why it will remain a long-standing threat. That is why they are an overwhelming burden on us. And there is a potential threat they will once again reorganize and resurge.

As you know, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the international community fought against Al-Qaeda in many ways, yet the ideology persists. Therefore, we are of the view that, first, these people will have to be dealt with by law. Second, the extremist ideology be removed from their minds. In other words, they will have to be rehabilitated.

Do you need a concrete plan to address the threat in terms of rehabilitation and protection from them through force?

Definitely, a concrete plan is needed in this regard. The psychology of these people will have to be taken care of. Secondly, measures against them will need to be professionally taken. Thirdly, their women and children, in terms of education, will have to undergo rehabilitation programs.

They should be taught about Islam, about community, about humanity and democracy. All these subjects must be taught with international recognition according to internationals laws so we can remove all the potential threats from them. To meet that end, we will need help from the international community and it is a long-term subject.

Can you say ISIS is finished?

We can say Daesh is geographically in northern Syria finished. There is not a single spot under ISIS in northern Syria. But there are potential threats that ISIS will once again reorganize itself especially around Idlib, Jarablous, Azaz and Afrin. In Idlib,

Al-Qaeda under the name of Tahrir al-Sham and Abu Mohammed Joulani, who was before a commander of the Jabhat al-Nusra and was an Al-Qaeda member, is reorganizing in that region. And many of the ISIS members held by us who had fled Baghouz are trying to reach there. And we suspect their efforts to reach these areas may come from an order from [ISIS chief] Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi. Their attempts are to reach there.

Additionally, there are many sleeper cells present in the region and they should be confronted through a widespread military campaign. ISIS terrorists had a foothold here for six years paving the way for them to spread and establish an education program for the communities fallen under their rule and to some extent it has had an influence.

Do you have any knowledge about the Yezidi women and children?

As I have earlier mentioned, according to information we have obtained, many Yezidi children who are among the Daesh families at the camps are denying their identity. We are doing our best to approach them and to convince them to reveal their identity.

Why do they deny their identity?

This is because ISIS has had a great influence on educating them, threatening them, and putting them under their influence. So long as they are treated badly, that style of education still lives with them making them to deny their identity.

How could you tackle the ISIS ideology outside courts and prisons?

In northern Syria, when the revolution broke out, particularly in the Kurdish cities, the national council was established, the institutional council was established. Many institutional councils in terms of health, defense, coordination and many others were reorganized. … An agreement between Kurds, Arabs, Armenian, Assyrians and Syriacs, all of them, was reached. And today, Daesh terrorists could be confronted the way the northern Syrian nations got together during the time of the revolution … And I believe once again they will all be protected from terror.

After the conclusion of the ISIS conflict, will the US continue to supply the YPG militarily?

Until now, the US and the coalition in general continue their joint work with us against Daesh sleeper cells. As a matter of fact, Syria needs a political solution. The question of Syria is not resolved with the elimination of Daesh.

For Syria, a constitution and a democratic system will have to be established and represent all the components of Syria and a system like this will have to be implemented. Meeting that end needs an international force especially the US as it is a great country and others within the international coalition. And undoubtedly it will become [their responsibility] to settle the Syrian crisis in a democratic way and they should be able to guarantee it.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/interview/06042019
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Re: ISIS captives and ideology pose serious ongoing threat

PostAuthor: Piling » Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:34 pm

Do you have any knowledge about the Yezidi women and children?

As I have earlier mentioned, according to information we have obtained, many Yezidi children who are among the Daesh families at the camps are denying their identity. We are doing our best to approach them and to convince them to reveal their identity.


Many Daesh women have stolen Yezidi children and claim they are own. When a Daesh child is sent to France, UK or elsewhere, better to verify his/her DNA.
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Re: ISIS captives and ideology pose serious ongoing threat

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 07, 2019 11:23 pm

Piling wrote:
Do you have any knowledge about the Yezidi women and children?

As I have earlier mentioned, according to information we have obtained, many Yezidi children who are among the Daesh families at the camps are denying their identity. We are doing our best to approach them and to convince them to reveal their identity.


Many Daesh women have stolen Yezidi children and claim they are own. When a Daesh child is sent to France, UK or elsewhere, better to verify his/her DNA.


It is a mess and as always it is the children who suffer

Daesh are barbaric and their wives equally so

If another country takes in any child from that area, it is asking for trouble

As you so rightly say, without DNA testing it would be impossible to confirm parenthood

I see another problem - especially if Europe or US takes in orphans - that child is going to HATE whoever killed their parents

I think many orphans will become the next generation of ISIS X(
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