ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said in a statement that it lost over 11,000 fighters in the war with the Islamic State, plus over 21,000 injured, as it made its victory declaration following the liberation of the final territory held by the extremist group.
“We announce today the destruction of the so-called Islamic State organization and the end of its ground control in its last pocket in the Baghouz region,” the SDF said at a ceremony held at the Omar oil field base in Deir al-Zor.
“On this occasion, we cannot but remember those heroes and pay tribute to the memory of the martyrs and wish the urgent recovery of [other’s] wounds. Without their sacrifices, we would not be granted this victory.”
The SDF called the four-months-long battle of Kobani that ended in January 2015 a symbol of the defeat against the Islamic State and said it now represents an important milestone in the conflict.
The General Command continued, “It is worth mentioning that the battle of Kobani was the symbol of the global resistance against terrorism and the turning point of ISIS’ defeat. Now, after five years of fighting, we stand here to declare the physical defeat of ISIS and the end of its public challenge over all human beings.”
“Likewise, we extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to all those who contributed to this war against terrorism, particularly the International Coalition against Da’ash,” the statement continued.
The SDF has said it rescued nearly 5 million people from all ethnic backgrounds in northeast Syria from terrorism, as well as the liberation of 52 thousand square km of Syrian territory and the elimination of the threat of terrorism that the Islamic State formerly posed.
“Just as Syrian Democratic Forces have helped people of the liberated areas to build their administrative and security institutions, they will also create the stability of the regions so that these areas can rebuild their administrative and legislative councils through democratic and transparent elections.”
The SDF publicly urged Damascus to return to dialogue, and to “take practical steps to reach a political solution based on the recognition of elected self-administrations in north-east of Syria and acceptance of the specialty of Syrian Democratic Forces.”
Moreover, it called on “Turkey to stop interfering into Syrian internal affairs and to stop constantly threat[ening] its security and [expulsion] from Syrian territory, especially Afrin, and to adopt dialogue as a way to resolve outstanding problems in the region based on mutual respect and good neighborly relations.”
The SDF also underlined that the end of the Islamic State’s caliphate in Baghouz in no way signifies the end of the group.
Also on Friday, Cemil Mazlum, the head of the SDF military forces in Syria’s Euphrates Region told Kurdistan 24 that, although the Islamic State has been defeated in Baghouz, there is still a need to defeat its remaining sleeper cells and, ultimately, its mentality.
Among world leaders that echoed these views was French President Emmanuel Macron, who announced on Saturday that “the menace remains and the struggle against terrorist groups must continue.”
The SDF concluded by announcing that a new phase in the fight against terrorism will begin, in which it would carry out a “continuation of precise military and security campaigns in coordination with the international coalition forces with the aim of completely eliminating the secret military presence of ISIS organization sleeper cells, which are great threat to our region and the whole world.”
Editing by John J. Catherine