Several sources have reported an SDF attack across Lake Assad just west of the Tabqa Airbase and Tabqa dam. Some of the reports are a little wild saying U.S. Marines are part of the assault force. Some are showing photos of airborne assaults. I think these can be dismissed as bogus exaggerations. What is happening is a well planned and well executed surprise offensive that has become characteristic of YPG/SDF operations. It was a river crossing supported by an air mobile insertion. The Military Times had this to say:
"U.S. aircraft have transported more than 500 Syrian Arab Coalition fighters and provided them with close air support in an operation to take the Taqba dam. The operation launched yesterday is intended to “reclaim the last route in and out of Raqqa,” said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon."
This series of tweets from @24Raqqa made over a four hour period sums up this operation as of an hour ago.
- Five Helicopters started the Airdrop operation backed by fighter jets. US and SDF fighters controlled the peninsula area and Shurfa town.
- Daesh evacuated civilians from that area a while ago for unknown reasons and prevented any refugees from East Aleppo to enter.
- SDF fighters are crossing the lake to the newly controlled area after securing it.
- About five fighter jets are flying in the area to prevent any Daesh unit to arrive.
- It is not true about controlling Aleppo-Raqqa road at that area. US and SDF fighters trying to secure their captured area.
- Aleppo-Raqqa road is still open and used by civilians.
- SDF fighters keep crossing the lake with special military boats to the new controlled areas.
- Raids bombed locations in Tabqa city west of Raqqa.
- More fighters arrived in the last two hours and many heavy vehicles were transported to the new controlled area.
- SDF backed by US forces and heavy vehicles started before one hour moving south and controlled the Aleppo-Raqqa road.
- SDF backed by US forces are moving to Euphrates dam.
The DOD spokesman said 500 SDF fighters were inserted by U.S. aircraft. I doubt all 500 fighters were brought in that way. It is much more likely that a smaller force was brought in with their Special Forces advisors to seize and secure the landing area so that the bulk of the SDF forces could land by boat along with their vehicles. The talk about Marines being involved probably came from Marine Ospreys used for the air landing. This is a YPG/SDF operation with Special Forces advisors and significant Coalition air support. This was always part of the Wrath of Euphrates plan to encircle Raqqa. We knew it was coming. Yet they still appeared to achieve tactical surprise. I attribute much of this to the lightness of the YPG/SDF forces. There is little logistical build up beyond pulling up your socks, tying your boot laces, filling your magazines and stepping forth. (Yeah, I know I'm exaggerating, but you get my point.) They and their Special Forces advisors clearly favor maneuver over firepower.
I have found photos which may or may not be related to this assault. Although a unit patch can be clearly seen as well as a watermark, I cannot determine what unit this is. Any information on this would be greatly appreciated.