US Senior Military Advisor visits Kobane, praises SDF forces

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Kurdish YPG fighters participating in the SDF operations against ISIS in northern Syria. File photo

ARA News

US Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joe Dunford, visited the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Kobane, the US Department of Defense said on Wednesday.

Troxell said he has absolute confident SDF “can finish the job in Raqqa.”

The sergeant major flew to the Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria to see the SDF in action. “Our forces just have absolute confidence in the SDF,” Troxell said.

The US-led coalition’s special operations and conventional forces are training the SDF, the sergeant major said.

US forces providing support in Syria include Marine artillery and Army high-mobility artillery rocket systems. “[There’s a] lot of not only training, but partnering and assisting with joint fires,” he said. “The Marines have been there a little over a month and had 1,182 fire missions.”

Troxell said he was impressed by the SDF. “I walked away with the utmost confidence that the Syrian Democratic Forces can get the job [Raqqa] done,” he said.

The American trainers took Troxell to a forward base the SDF uses for training and to project troops to the front lines. The American troops also use those bases to get the pulse of the people in the area.

“Everywhere I went, people were talking about not only what we were doing with our partnering role, but what the others were doing,” Troxell said.

The American trainers told the sergeant major that the SDF is a well-run, well-led military organization. It does not have formal ranks and schools, “but they have small-unit leadership,” Troxell said.

“I saw small unit battle drills going on out there,” he added, “and I saw training where they were practicing entering buildings, as if they were entering and clearing rooms.”

The SDF troops are in their late teens and early ’20s, and, the sergeant major said, they are supremely confident that they can beat ISIS.

“The key leaders were older, but you could tell they have a good [command] climate, that commanders are engaged and they are a disciplined force,” Troxell said.

“Talking to some of our special operators, in their opinion, [the SDF] was some of the best partnered forces they have ever been with.”

The SDF are not overconfident, he said. “Many of them have family in Raqqa and they want to go now, but understand they have to prepare the battlefield in order to have success.”

According to Troxell, the partnership between the SDF and the Americans is one of trust.

“Wherever the Americans went they had SDF with them,” he said. “I wasn’t told of any frictions between them. There is unity of command in how they do business, and of course we are advising and assisting and accompanying, and the SDF is doing the fighting, and leaders said they were pleased with the progress.”

The SDF small-unit leaders have learned how to accomplish the mission within commander’s guidance from some of America’s best fighters, the sergeant major said. They take the initiative, there is trust within the unit and there is discipline in these small units, Troxell said.

“They are learning what ‘right’ looks like from our best,” the sergeant major said.

However, he said more US trainers could help. “Those advisors also are the ones who call for artillery support and airstrikes.”

“More advisors would absolutely be more help, but the guys on the ground now — with the force management levels we have now — are doing a good job getting after it,” he said. “We’ll see as we move forward toward the Raqqa fight if we put more advisors in there, but right now I didn’t see a force today that was starving for advisors,” he concluded.

US Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell (R) stands next to a SDF fighter in Kobane (Getty image)

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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