Former US Marine killed fighting ISIS in Syria

Former US Marine killed fighting ISIS in Syria
A former US Marine who traveled to Syria to fight with a Kurdish militia group against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) was killed this month, according to Kurdish YPG forces.

The Kurdish military group released a video on Tuesday saying that David Taylor, 25, of Florida was “martyred fighting ISIS barbarism” in the city of Raqqa, Syria, on July 16, according to AP.

Taylor, who used the nom de guerre Zafer Querecox, “was loved among his comrades,” the YPG said in the YouTube video. "He had a big heart and was a very conscientious comrade, and an expert at what he did."

Known as the People’s Protection Units, the YPG are allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a militant movement that has waged a three-decade guerrilla war for independence against the Turkish government.

Taylor is the third American volunteer to die fighting alongside Kurdish soldiers this year, spotlighting a little-known underground pipeline of US citizen fighters.

The YPG said Taylor joined the group in May. In his last video, Taylor said he had volunteered "to fight against ISIS and do whatever I can to fight the revolution here," adding “Long live free Kurdistan.”

Taylor’s father, David Sr., confirmed his death to AP, and said the family was told last weekend by a US consular official. They said the YPG is paying to transport Taylor’s body back to the United States.

The US State Department said it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria, but offered no further comment.

Taylor arrived in Syria last spring and only told his family that was he was training with the Kurdish military group known as the YPG.

During his stint in the US Marines, Taylor was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan and South Korea, and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year.

The presence of American volunteers with the YPG is complicated both militarily and diplomatically.

The Trump administration angered Turkey earlier this year when it promised to supply small arms, machine guns, armored vehicles and other military hardware to the Kurds. Washington sees the militia as best-suited for the siege of Raqqa, the Syrian stronghold of Islamic State. Ankara, however, sees the YPG as terrorists.

The US agrees with Turkey in designating the PKK as a terrorist organization, but rejects the idea that Kurdish forces in Syria or Iraq should be treated in the same fashion.

Turkey is allied with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and regards them and the Arab components of the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as better candidates for receiving any sort of aid.

Turkey is also threatened by the Kurds in Iraq, especially after the US pumped millions of dollars into the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Last month, Iraq’s Kurdish region announced that they will hold an independence referendum in September.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the move, fearing that it might produce a domino effect leading to Kurdish-controlled autonomous areas (cantons) in northern Syria to declare independence as well.

Erdogan emphasized that Turkey will not allow a Kurdish state to be established in northern Syria. However, despite repeated reports that the Kurds in Syria want to create their own state, there’s been no official moves to suggest that an independence declaration is imminent.

At the same time, the State Department has said the SDF, and the YPG in particular, are critical parts of the US-led coalition opposing IS in Syria.

"I think we've been clear in acknowledging that it's a very complex battle space in northern Syria," Mark Toner, the State Department's deputy spokesman, said in March.

"We have chosen to work with the YPG as a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which include Syrian Kurds, Syria Turkmen and Syrian Arabs — a diverse group of ethnicities — in order to go after, destroy ISIS," Toner said. "So we're in common cause in going after ISIS, as is Turkey. Turkey also realizes the threat they face from ISIS."

Taylor is the third American to die this month fighting alongside the YPG. Earlier, the YPG confirmed the deaths of Robert Grodt and Nicholas Warden, who were killed on July 5.

Grodt had joined the YPG in March 2017 and took the name Demhat Goldman. He joined the group "to help the Kurdish people in their struggle for autonomy" and to fight IS, he said in a video.

Warden, 29, was a resident of Depew, New York. His father Mark confirmed his son's death to WGRZ of Buffalo.

Warden served two tours in Afghanistan with the US Army, and on leaving the military signed on with the French Foreign Legion to fight Boko Haram in Africa, his father said. He went to Syria to fight IS in February, according to the YPG.

"I joined the YPG to fight ISIS because of the terrorist attacks they were doing in Orlando and San Bernardino, in Nice, in Paris," Warden, who used the name Rodî Deysie, said in a YPG video.

It's not known how many Americans have joined the Syrian Democratic Forces, but the YPG says many of them are military veterans.

Western-backed coalition forces have been fighting alongside Kurdish militias to retake Raqqa since November last year.

Having captured the surrounding villages, the coalition announced it was attacking Raqqa itself on June 6, completely cutting it off from the outside world just over two weeks later. On July 3, the coalition fought its way into the Old City, breaking through a perimeter of IS defenses in a major advance.

IS had declared Raqqa the capital of its so-called caliphate.