After announcing their complete victory over the Islamic State (IS) at the shattered town of Baghouz al-Fawqani in eastern Syria -- ending the five year existence of the murderous IS caliphate -- - fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) now have to contend with the real possibility of a war against Turkey supported by its patron, Russia.
The Kurds also face the possibility president Donald Trump will fulfill a vow made in December 2018 to abandon them with the defeat of IS.
The world is celebrating the historic victory of the Kurds along with their allied Arab, Assyrian/Syrian and Christian militias over IS was announced on March 23. Since the U.S.-backed SDF was founded in October 2015, the mission of the SDF is to establish a secular, democratic and federal Syria.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised the SDF's announcement about the end of IS as a territorial entity.
"Syrian democratic forces announced that the last bastion of Daesh had fallen. I pay tribute to our partners and the armies of the international coalition, of which France is a part. They fought the terrorists with determination, for our security," tweeted Macron.
"We do not forget the victims of Daesh. The stage reached today is immense: a major danger for our country is eliminated. But the threat remains and the fight against terrorist groups must continue."
British Prime Minister Theresa May also welcomed the news, and vowed to do "what is necessary" to protect British people and others from the threat of IS.
The SDF held a ceremony on the afternoon of March 23 to mark the victory over Daesh. The ceremony was attended by U.S. Ambassador William Roebuck and Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) co-chair Ilham Ahmed. Roebuck congratulated the SDF on its victory over the jihadists.
"This critical milestone in the fight against ISIS delivers a crushing, strategic blow and underscores the unwavering commitment of our local partners and the global coalition to defeat ISIS," said Roebuck, reading a statement from Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"We could not have achieved any of this without the unwavering commitment and unity of our coalition and the tremendous sacrifice of our Syrian partners on the ground who have lost thousands of lives, taking back their homeland and helping to protect coalition homelands at the same time."
"We honor the sacrifices and the valor of the Syrian Democratic Forces in achieving this victory and express condolences for the many lives lost in the campaign," said Roebuck.
SDC co-chair Ahmed congratulated the Syrian people, but warned the fight to destroy ISIS sleeper cells and the group's ideology must continue. There are anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 jihadists in these sleeper cells.
British Army General Sir Nicholas Carter, chief of the Defense Staff, offered his "deep and most sincere condolences to the families of the many who have fallen (from the SDF) in the important and noble endeavor. We also have great admiration for the humanity and care that your forces have shown during this difficult and final battle to try to avoid civilian casualties and to receive those fleeing Baghouz."
Practically the entire SDF consists of Kurdish men and women fighters led by the People's Protection Units (YPG), a mostly Kurdish militia declared a terrorist organization by Turkey and its dictator, Recip Tayyip Erdogan.
The horrific campaign to destroy IS cost the SDF 11,000 dead. Of this total, 8,000 were Kurds of the YPG, more than 1,800 were Kurdish Peshmerga fighters with the rest of the dead spread among the other SDF militias.
Analysts agree that without the superhuman sacrifice of the Kurds, IS would still exist today. Kurds now have to turn their attention towards defeating an offensive by the Turkish Army within the year.
In December 2018, Erdogan said he had postponed a military offensive in northeastern Syria against the Kurds, citing conversations with Trump and other American officials. He did make it clear Turkey will eventually follow through on plans for an assault on Kurdish forces in the area.
"In the upcoming months, on the ground in Syria, we will follow a style of incursion that eliminates both PKK-YPD elements and remnants of Daesh," said Erdogan.
This announcement came after Trump declared his intention to withdraw United States forces in Syria without consulting his military commanders, Arab allies in the region and NATO.
Trump's decision to withdraw delighted Turkey, Russia and Iran, Syria's main backers. It angered the Kurds and many American officials who saw it as a shameful abandonment of the Kurds. Israeli officials also said they felt abandoned by Trump, whose decision will strengthens Iran's hold on Syria and create a strategic threat to Israel.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced his resignation the day after Trump's order, making clear he opposed the Syria withdrawal, along with other presidential actions.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.