Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Kurdish Anti-Terror Units

The Anti-Terror Units‎, short: YAT, Arabic: وحدات مكافحة الأرهاب‎‎) are the special forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces, consisting of the best trained and equipped members of the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Women's Protection Units (YPJ). They were led by the renowned Syrian Kurdish commander Ali Boutan until his death. YAT is trained by United States special operations forces and the CIA.

Formed as YPG's special forces in late 2014, the unit was organized to seek and destroy ISIL sleeper cells in Rojava, and also to conduct operations behind enemy lines. Initially, YAT members were chosen by the YPG and YPJ as simply the most brave and devoted fighters within those units, but not as true special or elite forces. This changed under the leadership of Ali Boutan, who reformed the unit and began to put its members through training courses that were supposed to emulate those of US and British SOF, while providing them with the best equipment the YPG/YPJ could afford. As the cooperation between the Kurdish forces and the United States increased, YAT was further trained by US SOF and the CIA in special compounds in Rojava and Jordan, while some YAT commanders were even sent to Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell for especially intense training.

Since its formation, YAT has carried out raids against ISIL targets on Mount Abdulaziz, arrested ISIL sleeper cells, and stopped ISIL terrorist attacks.  In September 2016, YAT captured two Sultan Murad Division fighters who had previously been filmed torturing YPG fighters in Jarabulus.

In November 2016, Boutan was the target of an improvised explosive device (IED) in Qamishli, which exploded as his car passed by. Even though an American SOF medic attempted to save his life, he died of his wounds shortly after. The attack was believed to have been carried out by Turkish Intelligence operatives. The Turkish pro-government Anadolu Agency claimed that Boutan had been responsible for sending PKK fighters into Turkey in order to conduct "terror operations".

In April 2017, YAT aided US special forces in capturing parts of Tabqa Dam from ISIL. During the battle, YAT commandos were equipped with US-supplied combat helmets, AN/PVS-7 night vision devices, flashlights, and were armed with M4 carbines equipped with AN/PEQ-2 laser sights, holographic weapon sights, and STANAG magazines.

On 21 June 2017, YAT captured five ISIL sleeper agents who were preparing a terrorist attack in Manbij.

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