YPG is an acronym whose translation means People’s Protection Units. It is the home grown defense forces of the Kurdish area of Syria. It emerged after the Civil War erupted in Syria and started to spill over into Syrian Kurdistan, now known as Rojava, or Western Kurdistan.
The People of the YPG
The men and women who make up the fighting force come from local communities and are mostly Kurdish, but the YPG also fights alongside non-Kurdish soldiers from the area including Syrian, Assyrian and Armenian Christians. And there are a small number of Americans and Europeans who’ve volunteered individually to join YPG in the fight against ISIS.
History of YPG
The Kurdish communities in Rojava have lived there for thousands of years. The modern-day YPG was formed after the Qamishli uprising in 2004 by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Role in Kobane
During the Kobane siege in 2014, Turkish Kurds demonstrated in support of their brethren in Rojava who were poorly equipped and prepared. The YPG were being pushed back and it looked like ISIS would achieve victory. Then the U.S. started providing air support striking key targets and dropping military supplies and Turkey allowed Peshmerga Units to transit Turkey to support the YPG, the siege was broken and YPG has taken control of Kobane. This has been the first major defeat for ISIS which many hope will be the turning point in the War against ISIS. And this has brought worldwide attention to the YPG.
Structure of YPG
The YPG is a democratic socialist organization in which Officers are elected by troops and equality regardless of gender, religion and ethnicity is guaranteed.
The YPG operate like a guerrilla force using stealth, surprise and hit and run tactics which has been proven to be effective against more conventional forces who invade and occupy. They operate with a large degree of autonomy so they can adapt quickly to battlefield conditions and mobilize their forces rapidly.
YPG Relations with Other Organizations
The YPG has aligned itself with other forces against ISIS. Its’ forces were joined by the Peshmerga in the battle for Kobane. The YPG joined Peshmerga in Iraq to free the Yazidi community in Sinjar and was instrumental in providing security through Syria to Turkey for the refugees as they were fleeing ISIS forces. YPG has joined forces with the Free Syrian Army to fight ISIS.
The war against ISIS has been the catalyst to put aside the differences between the various parties to fight the more immediate battle against a brutal force. But as the conflict subsides, the differences will arise again: the Turks are suspicious of the alliance between the PKK and the YPG; the Peshmerga are concerned that the YPG and their sponsors, the PYD and PKK may have intents on unifying Kurdistan which would be a threat to the KRG in Iraq. It is very much a liquid situation that is evolving and no one really knows what the future holds.
Although the battle is far from over, it appears that the YPG including its’ all female brigade, the YPJ, are capable, given the air support, military equipment and arms as well as regional ground support, as a force to be reckoned with in the battle with ISIS for the Middle East.
- Analysis: YPG – the Islamic State’s worst enemy, Michael Stephens, JDW Correspondent – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly