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Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

  • Zana Omar

The Obama administration says it has no plans to send U.S. troops into ground combat against Islamic State militants. But a handful of Americans have taken it upon themselves to bypass that chain of command.

Brian Wilson, who says he was previously with the U.S. Air Force, went to Syria to support the YPG, the Kurdish People's Protection Units holding out against IS forces.

"I knew about the YPG," Wilson recently told VOA in an exclusive interview with VOA's Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer. "Nobody told me about them. I read about them from the news and the internet."

Describing himself as impressed by the Kurds' egalitarianism — and the ethnic and religious diversity of Kurdish-held areas — Wilson said the YPG are well-situated to do what the U.S. won't, but that they can't do it alone.

"They can fight ISIS. They've been fighting them for more than two years now — different terrorist groups," he said. "If they had better weapons, better technology, it would be a lot easier for them."

While U.S. and other Western nations have raised alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces, Wilson offers a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon. Wilson may seem an unlikely warrior and his mission Quixotic, but the US State Department says it appears there is nothing wrong with Americans taking part in the fight, as long as they're not supporting groups it considers terrorists.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman says she knows of no law that prevents Americans from fighting alongside foreign forces, provided they are not groups the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. While the YPG is linked to Turkey's PKK, classified as a terror group by the U.S., the YPG has no such designation.

According to reports by Reuters, Wilson, is the second American known to have joined YPG forces. Jordan Matson, a 28-year-old from Wisconsin, is also fighting with the YPG, a spokesman for the armed group said last week.

Some information for this report comes from Reuters.

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