The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (a PR brand for Kurdish YPG units) fully liberated the strategic city of Manbij in northern Syria from the ISIS terrorist group. The main ISIS defenses were concentrated in few central parts of the city and, indeed, the “liberation” was the result of an agreement between the Kurds and ISIS.
Over 100 ISIS militants with arms and military equipment withrew from the city in the direction of Al Ghadurah. Pro-Kurdish sources reported that the group also took some 500 hostages. However, other sources reported that these 500 people decided to withraw from the city because they didn’t want to remain under the Democratic Union Party (political branch of the YPG) rule. If this is true, the Kurdish political leadership will face a major challenge, attempting to keep the control of the city.
Another problem is the resources spent to take control of Manbij. The ISIS garrison (about 1000 militants) were able to repel the US-backed attempts to seize the city about 2 month. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) consisted of Kurdish YPG units, some Arab units loyal to the US and the US Special Forces, supported by the US-led coalition air power. Nonetheless, the SDF lost from 600 to 1100 fighters during the storm of the city. In turn, the ISIS lost 300-500 fighters in the city and about 400 in anntempts to lif the siege from the outside directions. All these show that the US and its proxies on the ground have big problems in offensive operations on the ground, even in very favourable circumstances. In this case, it’s a big question how they will storm the city of Raqqa (a longstanding goal of the US-backed operations in Syria). It’s possible that Washignton is going to make another deal with ISIS in order to achieve own PR goals.
Despite all problems of the SDF, Manbij was an important logistic hub that allowed the terrorist group to recieve reinforcements, arms and smuggle oil through the Syrian-Turkish border. Liberation of it was an important strategic move. Now, the Kurds will likely make an attempt to advance in the direction of Al Bab, another important city in northern Syria. Controlling it, the YPG will significantly expand its influence in northern Syria. The Erdogan regime will likely oppose this move, supporting the expansion of the so-called “modrate opposition” along the Syrian-Turkish border.
The problem is that the Obama administration does not need this. It needs to show that the US is a state that “defeated ISIS” and the control of Al Bab is not the goal that allows to do so.