“Nine villages were seized from ISIS on Monday as the Kurdish-led ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) reopened the Manbij front and pushed southwards along the Euphrates River. With ISIS struggling to hold ground in the region, Kurdish forward units took control over the villages of Jurunli, Mahunah, Haymar al-Jays, Judayat al-Faras, Turaykiyat al-Humr, Qibab Kabir, Qibab Saghir, Sakhanah and Arudah with relative ease just hours after the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) also advanced nearby, thus cutting off the frontline territory between ISIS and the Turkish Armed Forces.
A military source informed Al-Masdar News that the SDF and Manbij Military Council are keen to take control of Al-Khafsa – this town has been fortified by ISIS militants after reaching a frontline stalemate in August 2016 following the liberation of Manbij city.
Remarkably, there are credible reports which indicate cooperation between the SDF and SAA; the latter provided artillery support for the advancing Kurdish forces. The Russian Air Force was also operational in eastern Aleppo tonight, pulverizing a number of Islamic State gun positions.
Earlier today, SDF reinforcements and US military advisors arrived to Manbij. These forces are now spearheading the offensive. A new batch of armored vehicles and technicals were also provided to the SDF.
Al-Khafsa is strategically important as it supplies the provincial capital of Aleppo with water; recently, this facility was shut down by ISIS while the latter flooded some government-held villages in the region. With heavy clashes ongoing on the near perimeter of Al-Khafsa, the town is expected to fall either overnight or tomorrow.” (Al Masdar News)
The last 48 hours have seen a rash of activity east of Aleppo. The SAA’s Tiger Forces raced forward to link up with the YPG south of Manbij on the heels of a large scale tactical withdrawal of IS forces from the al-Bab area. This linkup has put the kibosh on Turkey’s plans to advance towards Raqqa. I wonder if this linkup was anything like that Spring day in April, 1945 near Torgau on the Elbe?
Erdogan has declared that he now intends to take Manbij. Fat chance of that happening. Both FSA and Turkish forces took it on the chin during their assault on al-Bab. Taking on the YPG and Manbij Military Council forces will be a bridge too far, especially since the Kurds have the support of U.S. Special Forces and U.S. airpower.
My guess is the Russians and the SAA have been coordinating this with the YPG for quite some time. They will probably be working together more and more as they roll towards Tabqa and Raqqa. In addition to this military cooperation, the YPG and SAA have already opened up a trade route to secure safe passage of goods and supply trucks. I’m very glad to see this, but at some point the Tiger Forces are going to have to turn their attention to Idlib. Will it be before or after the fall of Raqqa?
I still have a fear that the U.S. wants to create a space for anti-Assad forces in the YPG/SDF controlled area. That would be a stupid, stupid idea. We should largely leave the area to the Kurds and Syrians as soon as we possibly can. Leaving just a few SF teams there, with the permission of the Syrian government would be ideal. They could do a lot in improving our relationship with Syria, Russia and even Iran. I hope McMaster is thinking that far ahead. Of course, Erdogan is likely to pitch such a fit he’s liable to give himself an aneurism.