US-Backed Syrian Alliance Exists ‘In Name Only’

Syrian Democratic Forces an Invention to Placate Turkey

A few weeks ago, the US announced plans to dramatically increase aid to a group calling itself the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a heretofore unmentioned which itself was presented as having just been formed out of a similarly unknown faction called the Syrian Arab Coalition, which was nominally the recipient of large airdrops of US arms.

The group didn’t form out of nowhere, of course, and in many ways it didn’t form at all, as the indications are that the Democratic Forces exist in name only, and were largely an invention of the US for branding’s sake after the last failed rebel-creation plan.

The “Arab groups” involved are all but non-existent, meaning the Democratic Forces boil down to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), simply relabeled in hopes that the US can start pouring aid into them more rapidly without infuriating Turkey for arming the YPG.

This explains, for instance, why when the US protested that its arms shipments were sent to the “Arab Groups” without naming them, the YPG suddenly started showing off a bunch of new American weapons. The quick backlash from Turkey also suggests that the semantic difference isn’t fooling anyone.

This isn’t the first time the US has created an artificial faction in Syria for propaganda sake. Early in the air war, they invented an al-Qaeda group called “Khorasan” to try to present the airstrikes against them as something other than attacks on al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, a faction that is allied with several US-backed rebel groups. Though they were similarly called out on this pretty quickly, the administration will still occasionally issue statements retaining the fiction of a Khorasan faction existing.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.