Dressed in matching combat fatigues with days worth of beard, the man known as Sipan barely stands out from the crowd of Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters. But unlike his fellow fighters, Sipan is an American who has taken up the cause against ISIS not for survival, but for a sense of justice.
Sipan, whose real name is Jeremy Woodard, is a former US Army serviceman who has traveled to Syria in a bid to fight what he sees as a existential evil in ISIS, Jim Muir reports for the BBC.
Despite the risks of fighting ISIS without the support of the US government, Woodard is not the only former service member of the US military to take up cause against ISIS. A spokesperson for the YPG said that at least three Americans were fighting with the Kurds against the jihadists in north-eastern Syria. Among them is a fellow US Army veteran, Jordan Matson.
Woodard served as a US Army Infantry specialist for 18 months in Iraq and for a year in Afghanistan. He has been in Syria battling against ISIS for a little over a month, yet during that time he has already had numerous close shaves against the militant group despite his military experience.
“ISIS is much harder to fight. They’re stronger, they have more weaponry, they have more financial backing. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban – they’re like a baby unit, much weaker,” Woodard told the BBC.
“We’ve got air strikes from America, but that’s not getting the job done. More countries need to pull together and put troops on the ground. That’s the only way it’s going to get resolved. If not, it’s just going to get worse.”
Woodard had already lost all the supplies he brought to Syria when his position was overrun by the jihadist fighters. Three days later, he managed to retake his position alongside the YPG but his belongings were gone.
However, for Woodard, who gave up his life and family back home including a four-year-old daughter, the fight against ISIS is the good fight.
“They kill innocent people daily. They rape women and children and sell them into slavery. Killing an Isis [Islamic State] member, to me that’s doing a good deed to the world. All of them need to get wiped out,” Woodard said.
Yet despite a growing international coalition against ISIS, alongside frequent US airstrikes, the jihadists continue to push their advance. The militants are once again threatening the Yazidi minority sect in northern Iraq with massacre, while also overrunning Anbar province just outside of Baghdad.
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