International Military Review – Syria, June 3, 2016

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On June 3, the ISIS terrorist group launched a full-scale advance at the rebel stronghold of Mar’e. ISIS units stormed Mar’e from two different axes – from the north and from the south, resulting violent clashes in the area. The Turkish artillery was reportedly conducting a cross-border fire towards the ISIS positions near Talalen, north of Mar’e.

After freeing 17 villages in East to Manbij, the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of Al-Madasah from ISIS on June 1. The control on the Qara quzaq bridge allows the SDF to develop the advance in the area. On June 2, the SDF seized the villages of Jawathah, Al-Hammam, and Al-Bourtoghali.  Now, SDF units and US special operation forces are within 11 km of Manbij.

The operation’s goal is to cut the ISIS terrorist group off from an area the group uses to move weapons and fighters across the border.The territory between the towns of Manbij and Marea is a crucial issue in the fight against ISIS. This area is known as the Manbij Pocket. If it’s captured, ISIS will be isolated from the Turkish border and the last funnel for foreign fighters will be cut off. This will also clear the way for an assault on the city of Raqqa, which is the ISIS self-proclaimed capital.

On June 2, the SAA and its allies liberated the Abu Al-Zayn Mountains and Al-Masbah area along the Salamiyah-Raqqa Highway in the Hama province, deploying at the outskirts of Al-Zakiyah in Western Raqqa. Now, the SAA’s goal is to seize the strategic Al-Zakiyah crossroad. This move will open the way to Tabaqa Military Airport. If it’s seized, the Syrian Arab Air Force will be able to use fighter helicopters actively in the province of Raqqa.

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  • Pave Way IV

    There is no battle for Manbij. There’s the handful of ex-FSA Arabs of the SDF and a few US SF-types slowly taking over the tiniest of villages well outside Manbij. This is a force of maybe 200 or so, a few pickups and APCs and U.S. SF types calling in air strikes. All spread out across a front of maybe 100 km and with zero left-over soldiers to hold the villages they just ‘liberated’.

    It will go about as well as the last Manbij Campaign that started at the Tishreen Dam six months ago. They’ll grab a handful of the ‘easy’ little villages that ISIS doesn’t want to waste time defending, then they’ll stall against the first serious defense ISIS throws up outside Manbij. Then, they’ll sit there for months calling in airstrikes to take out the occasional pickup truck or sniper positions.

    Honestly, I think the only reason they’re doing this is to scrounge up a few more Arab SDF recruits from the newly-‘liberated’ villages. A pathetic attempt to salvage a failed strategy of conquest without an army. With any luck, the Syrians and friends will show up with their army to take back Syrian sovereign territory from whatever evil occupier is there: ISIS or the US.

    • Sergio González

      Couldn’t agree more.

    • Alex M

      I doubt that. I think a much more likely scenario is that the SDF will capture the Manbij pocket from the east and west similar to what they did in the summer of 2015 with the Tal Abyad offensive which linked up the Hasakah and Kobani cantons.
      The Kurds have repeatedly crossed Turkey’s “red line”, the Turkish supported rebels in northern Aleppo have proved utterly useless in fighting ISIS and are now on the brink of collapse while the YPG/SDF has had a string of victories in Hasakah province. The US is obviously shifting it’s support towards the SDF as the Turkish supported Islamist rebels can’t get the job done for Washington.
      The SDF will capture Manbij and continue on to link up the Afrin canton to the Kobani canton. This will leave ISIS without the Turkish supply lines it needs and it’ll leave them sufficiently weakened for a real Raqqa offensive to actually retake the city. I don’t think the SAA is really in any position to retake Manbij or Raqqa when they can barely defend Palymra, Aleppo and Dier Ez Zoir at this point. The Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava will soon be a beacon to the entire Middle East by becoming the only secular-democracy in the region.

      • Pave Way IV

        The Tal Abyad offensive was a lot closer to Kurdish territory and focused on a major pipeline for ISIS right between two Kurdish areas. Kobane and Hasakah both contributed a force of a few thousand for that one city. YPG/YPJ have absolutely no troop strength, armor, ammunition or incentive to close the Turkish Corridor, i.e,, ‘Manjib Pocket’. This would cost them dearly and they have NO troops to spare. CENTCOM’s fantasy army of eager-to-die YPG/YPJ doesn’t exist and NEVER WILL. They know they’re being used by the US right now.

        The YPG/YPJ are LOCAL militia – they want to defend their homes and farms in Kurdish territory, not be cannon fodder for CENTCOM land-theft schemes. You’re speaking of them as if they have some interest in policing all of northern Syria to get rid of ISIS. They don’t like ISIS, but they sure as hell are NOT going to die for CENTCOM’s desire to contain an al-Qaeda spinoff (ISIS) that the CIA and Saudi Arabia created. They are CAPABLE of booting out ISIS, but they are not willing to when there is absolutely no benefit for them. It only benefits US land/resource theft and Syrian partitioning schemes.

        YPG/YPJ is happy just to kick ISIS off Kurdish territory. The Turkish Corridor is not so important that they are willing to die for it – it’s not THEIR problem. The CIA-corrupted PYD Kurdish political party has dreams of closing that corridor and unifying Kobane and Efrin, but few YPG/YPJ are willing to die for the PYD political party fantasies – the PYD DOES NOT represent all Rojava Kurds, not by a long shot. That’s only the impression Western MSM is trying to push: PYD = the will of all Rojava Kurds to die for a chunk of desert. It’s BS – nothing is further from the truth. You are being lied to and it’s quite intentional – the US wants everyone to think this is purely a Kurdish thing (not a US land/resource theft of Syrian sovereign territory/resources.

        There is no universal Syrian Kurdish desire for a huge, connected piece of land among the little people Kurds. It would cost too many lives and they could never hold it. The few thousand Kurds displaced from the corridor may want to return, but the rest of the Rojava are not going to die for that to happen. The Syrian-Turkish border scheme only a fantasy of the corrupt PYD and their US/Israeli handlers. The average Kobane farmer doesn’t give a damn about a broke, corrupt, unified Kurdistan run by a US puppet government, i.e., the PYD or some of their cronies. They would rather just be part of Syria and have everyone leave them the hell alone. Nobody is posting YouTube videos of the opinions of the ‘little people’ Kurds. All the stuff you see is just what the US wants everyone to think the ‘little people’ Kurds want – because that fulfills grander US schemes to steal Syrian sovereign land, water and oil.

        • Jacek Wolski

          There are 2500 Arabs and 450 Kurds leading the offensive plus USSF. Manbij will be taken. Kurds will withdraw after victory, which is forthcoming. No Black Hawk down here, sorry to shatter your illusions.

          • Pave Way IV

            This is what Wladimir van Wilgenburg just reported in his Daily Beast article, but I’m hard pressed to see any evidence of that kind of force – actual boots on the ground west of the Euphrates. Hundreds, sure. Three thousand? Er… it doesn’t seem like.

            If that’s true, then they should all be able to reach the outskirts of Manbij in a few days with those kinds of numbers, right? Not to take Manbij, but just reach and partially surround it. We should be seeing – what – fifty or so airstrikes a day with a force of three thousand moving quickly across rural areas until they reach the city? Hundreds of ISIS casualties? I’ll be looking for those reports.

        • Alex M

          The PYD is not at all CIA corrupted. Why would the United States arm an affiliate of the PKK (which is currently listed as a terrorist organization by the US and is at war with their ally in Turkey) unless they had no other options? Of coarse they’d be hesitant to give their former enemies advanced weapons. If they’re CIA puppets why would the Russians be supporting them? Why would the US still be apologetic and hesitant about supporting them? What you’re saying makes no sense.
          The YPG/YPJ fighters very much believe in Abduallah Ocalan’s ideology of Democratic Confederalism (afterall the YPG/YPJ is just the military wing of the PYD). All their forces go through ideological education in feminism, pluralism, secularism, democratic confederalism and the goals of the Rojava revolution. They’ve set up local councils and assemblies which put these ideals into practice. And it’s not just Kurds. Christians Syriacs, Turkmen and Arabs all participate and all have their own assemblies. The YPG/YPJ as part of the SDF have liberated plenty of non-Kurdish villages and towns in northern Syria which is exactly what we’d expect if they were actually trying to build a viable federation. This is also what the KRG has done in Iraq, liberating non-Kurdish areas necessary for a viable state.
          Besides, they’re not just liberating the Manbij pocket to liberate the people suffering under ISIL. There’s also the fact that cutting off ISIL’s supply lines will cut off the flow of weapons, ammunition, foreign fighters and supplies which ultimately end up going to Raqqa (which is where many terrorist attacks and offensives by ISIL directed at Rojava come from). That’s why the Manbij and Raqqa offensives are so important even from a purely self-interested perspective (not to mention connecting the Kobani and Afrin cantons is vital for a viable federation).
          As for them not having any troops to spare, are you kidding? They’re getting more and more Arab, Turkmen and Syriac troops every day. The SDF is now 40% non-Kurdish and they have 80,000 troops and they have the backing of both superpowers (US & Russia). You can’t prevent Rojava from rising, it already has. There will be a secular-federal democracy in Syria. The regime is preferable to ISIS, but Rojava provides an alternative that isn’t merely the lesser of two evils.

          • Pave Way IV

            Just clarify these two problematic issues for me, Alex:

            1) When (what date) was the PYD elected as the representative of all Syrian Kurds? How much did they win by? They must have won to claim the YPG/YPJ as their ‘military wing’ right? Or did the YPG/YPJ vote to be the military wing of a political party, the PYD, rather than being Rojava’s military?

            2) If the YPG/YPJ are the PYD’s military wing, then what is Asayish? Why would the PYD need their own private army if they already have a military wing? And why would the socialist-leaning ‘Democratic Union’ party need a private para-military for party security? If they have the mandate of all Rojava Kurds, who would they need protection from? Who do they intend to lord over with their own internal ‘security services’? Why does Asayish run political prisons? Most important: Where exactly did the PYD get money to arm and train their own private militia? They are very well trained and equipped (new U.S. weapons) – far better than the PYD’s supposed military wing: the YPG/YPJ. Are Syrian Kurds a bigger threat to the PYD than ISIS is to the YPG/YPJ? Then why is Asayish better armed and trained?

          • Alex M

            Rojava held general elections in 2015 and they’re preparing to hold legislative elections in 2016. The YPG/YPJ predates Rojava by a decade, the PYD established it as their military wing (just like how Hezbollah established it’s own military wing). Initially the YPG/YPJ was the military of Rojava as it was pretty much the only force in the area capable of fighting ISIS. However Rojava’s military at this point is a coalition of secular Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Syriac militias known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The YPG/YPJ is the largest and best established militia within the coalition but only makes up 60% of the SDF (the other 40% being non-Kurdish militias).

            Asayish is the police force of the Kurdish Supreme Communitee, the official governing body of Rojava (established by the PYD and KNC, Kurdish National Council). There are no political prisons in Rojava because it’s a pluralistic society. They’re not lording over anybody, they’re establishing a stable autonomous region with law enforcement. This is citizen led policing, they’re especially there to protect women from attacks from Islamists and to enforce rules against domestic violence against women. A full 25% of Asayish are women and it’s co-head is a woman. The goal is to eventually train all citizens to provide for security (and make Asayish unnecessary). In addition instruction is given in ethics, the history of Kurdistan, imperialism the psychological war waged by popular culture and the importance of education and self-criticism.

          • Pave Way IV

            Beautiful. This mangled logic/justification could be a western MSM or PYD press release or a bullet points in a White House press briefing. You hit every talking point right on the mark. I’m not being cynical – you truly did a remarkable job.

  • Dennis R

    What is the MOST elite and highly respected sub-group under the SDF?? Example: There’s the Pesh we all know and have hung out with, but I’m not military, and I’ve never met SDF or any type of new school Kurd SOF like CTG CTU units. BUT, however, I know it’s diff w/ Syria with all the groups under this umbrella of SDF.
    What are the “specialists” or “Unconventional ODA/OGA Ground Branch ex-SOF used as shooters primarily (not to be confused with GRS lol) among the SDF umbrella? YPG is not underestimated and considered top notch, but is there ONE ELEMENT that just is that group that would almost be a semi-organized SDF “SF” group/militia??