US Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the head of the Combined Joint Task Force against the Islamic State (IS) group, has said that the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) is now the majority group with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“I’ll say that we have watched and operated along-side the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which about 40 percent are composed of YPG Kurds, the People’s Protection Units (YPG); and about 60 percent now are composed of the Syrian Arab Coalition,” Townsend said during a teleconference this week with Pentagon reporters.
In an email to Rudaw English the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that “Approximately ninety percent of the SAC are Arabs. The SAC invites all Syrians to train and join the SAC formations to liberate their country from ISIS (IS) destruction. Neither leaders of SAC formations nor the US use ethnicity as a criteria to join the counter-ISIS coalition.”
The assessment comes ahead of an expected assault of central Raqqa, the last stronghold of the IS group in Syria, and is thought to be a rebuttal to Turkish claims that the SDF is majority Kurdish and therefore should not lead the assault on Raqqa, a majority Arab city.
The SDF is thought to have around 50,000 fighters within the 22 factions under its umbrella. The majority Kurdish-Arab force also includes Syriac and Turkmen fighters as well as an international battalion.