“Moments ago, the Kurdish-led 'Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) established full control over Tall as-Saman after a 48-hour battle prompted ISIS fighters to withdraw to the neighbouring village of Qaryah Armaniyah.
The capture of Tall as-Saman is significant as it lies on one of two main roads leading directly southwards to the predominately Arab city of Raqqa. The advance puts Kurdish forces some 28 kilometers north of the Islamic State capital.
12 days into the US-backed Kurdish offensive, codenamed operation 'Euphrates Wrath', over 30 villages have been liberated from the Islamic State. However, Kurdish forces have suffered heavy casualties due to ISIS guerilla tactics and suicide bombers.” (Al Masdar News)
“All hell is loose in the northeastern countryside of Aleppo as ISIS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) all battled one another on Wednesday. While ISIS mounted a counter-offensive on Qabasin, their forces completely withdrew from several nearby villages, leaving them easy prey for the US-backed SDF. Thus, the SDF was able to pinch out a largely abandoned ISIS bulge and took control over the villages of Al-Bughaz, Abu Hayj, Hutah, Jubb ad Dam (Qanlê Qoyê), Kur Huyuk, Ulashi, Kandarliyah, al-Qarah and Tall Bersaya - these villages are located northeast of al-Bab.
Meanwhile, Turkish-backed rebels fighting under the FSA banner seized the adjacent villages of Arab Wiran and Shuweiha.
Additionally, FSA fighters have once again captured Qabasin; ISIS was only able to maintain control of the town for three hours earlier today. Moments ago, rebel forces also captured the village of Agil (Aji), southeast of Qabasin.
While the FSA and SDF leadership are still firmly at odds with each other, both parties hope to liberate the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab.” (Al Masdar News)
While all eyes are focused on the beginning of the “final” battle for Aleppo, The YPG/SDF forces are continuing to make offensive gains on both the al Bab and the Raqqa fronts. The seizure of several villages near al Bab was impressive in how quickly the SDF/YPG was able to take advantage of an IS thinning of the lines. That takes discipline and initiative.
I’m also impressed by the early success of “Euphrates Wrath,” the SDF offensive to take Raqqa. That the YPG is the major element in this offensive is surprising. This is not Kurdish land. Phase one of this offensive kicked off with a pincer move similar to the one used to take Hasakah earlier this year. Despite this early success, this is going to be a long term project.
Both the DOD and YPG spokespeople have been making the point that YPG forces are leaving Manbij to take part in “Euphrates Wrath,” but not before they complete the training of the Manbij Military Council. Turkey has long pressured the US to force the Kurds to withdraw east of the Euphrates. While Turkey is pleased about the withdrawal, they are crying like rats eating onions about the recent SDF seizure of IS controlled villages near al Bab. At the same time the DOD announced that the US does not sanction the Turkish/FSA effort to take al Bab and will not provide air support. US advisors have also been withdrawn.
There is also a large build up of SAA and Hezbollah forces in the al Safirah area just south of Aleppo and al Bab. Russia has redeployed seven batteries of S-300s to the same area. Clearly this is all to support the reduction of the Aleppo pocket, but these forces are also in a perfect position to thwart Turkish dreams of taking al Bab, Manbij and beyond.
As a final note, I hope that the DOD plans to do a thorough study of the YPG/YPJ. There are valuable lessons to be learned here. This a remarkably successful, self-trained and self-organized force. Although it possesses a small number of mortars, armored vehicles and other supporting arms, it is overwhelmingly a very lightly armed infantry force that can move rapidly on foot or in their fleet of light pickup trucks. The individual units enjoy tremendous freedom of action and display remarkable battlefield initiative down to the company equivalent sized force. The all female YPJ units seem to be far more than some new age publicity gimmick. Unencumbered by 100 pounds of equipment, they are effective against an enemy that is apparently terrified of dying at the hands of a woman. The YPJ fighters are also very effective in handling refugees and civilians in liberated villages. The Kurds may be on to something with their approach to the military art.
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