Why the Kurds came to the forefront of the fight against ISIS

By the end of December Kurdish forces, with the support of the Syrian opposition continues to occupy the territory on the North Bank of the Euphrates river, ready to attack “capital of the “Islamic state” (ISIS banned in Russia as a terrorist organization) — the city of Raqqa. Operation of Turkey and the government troops in Syria stalled, stalled the operation of Iraqi forces against ISIL in Mosul.

Kurds go to Raqqa

The operation to capture Raqqa, codenamed “Wrath of the Euphrates” was launched in early November. The main strike force were the so-called “Democratic forces of Syria” (SDF) is a grouping consisting of units of the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian opposition. The first month of operation of SDF troops tried to make a breakthrough in Raqqa from the North along the road leading directly to the city, in the narrowest place from the front lines before the “capital” of ISIS was about 40 km away. Despite the support of American and French aircraft, the fighters of the SDF have achieved only limited success, and from December 10 began the “second phase” of the operation: the liberation of the areas to the West of Raqqa.

According to the commanders of the SDF, who leads the Pro-Kurdish Agency AraNews, “second phase” of the operation has two objectives: to take the dam of es-Saur and surround Raqqa from the West. The dam was built in the early 1970-ies with the support of the Soviet engineers. As a result, the Euphrates appeared the reservoir El-Assad, the largest lake in Syria and a major junction of water in Northern parts of the country, including Aleppo.

By SDF consisted of more than 30 thousand fighters (according to the Syrian monitoring centre for human rights), which in raqqa resisted about 2 thousand fighters of ISIS (according to “voice of America” with reference to officials in Washington).

How many soldiers from 30 thousand were involved in the attack to the West of Raqqa, not reported, but the SDF forces moved quickly and in eight days came to the shore of lake El-Assad. 21 December (ten days of operation) SDF troops liberated the West of Raqqa to more than 1.3 thousand sq. km and took 97 settlements. Eventually they occupied the entire North shore of the reservoir, while a few kilometers from the dam of es-Saur.

The loss of Assad and Turkey

The operation of other forces against ISIL militants are not as successful as “the Wrath of the Euphrates”. For example, to the West of lake El-Assad, the Turkish troops for more than a month can’t beat the Islamists the town of El-Bab. It is a stronghold of ISIL in the region, taking him to Ankara was named one of the goals of the operation “shield of the Euphrates”. The Turkish army approached the city on 14 November, since she never managed to master at least one of its districts.

21 December Turkey suffered the most serious losses during the operation: in the district El-Baba was killed 14 servicemen. Only the Turkish army, according to official figures, since the beginning of operations in August, lost 33 people.

The promotion of the Turkish troops and the operation SDF indirectly linked. On the one hand, and those others are US allies and Washington is interested in the most efficient and consistent conduct of both campaigns. On the other hand, Ankara, being formally on the same side with the Kurds, has already fulfilled its main task — the division captured by the Kurds land in the North of Syria, explains Leonid Isayev, a senior lecturer at the HSE. Capture El-Baba Turkish forces still held, but deep inside Syrian territory in the direction of Raqqa, they will not go, predicts Isaev.

The troops of the Syrian government in early December for several days of lost Palmyra during a large-scale offensive of ISIS and were repulsed by the militants more than 30 km to the West from this city. Currently, the front line runs near the airfield Tias (the oldest and largest air force base in Syria), which the government army defending for about two weeks.

In addition, 22 Dec Agency Yemeni Al-Masdar News reported that is militants launched a “massive offensive” in Deir ez-Zor. The town is partly occupied by government troops and their enclave in the rear of the ISIS occupied territory. Communication with him is supported by aviamost from the nearby airfield. The size of attacking groups is still unknown.

The slowdown in Mosul

The fourth area of attack on the ISIS — Iraqi Mosul. The operation for the liberation from the militants, “the Iraqi capital of ISIS” began in mid-October, holds her coalition consisting of the Iraqi army and special forces (CTS), military units of Iraqi Kurdistan and the Shiite militias, supported by the coalition led by the United States. By 31 October of the troops reached the Eastern quarters of the city, and another group went around Mosul in the East, and by 23 November, the city and the adjacent territory was surrounded, and then began urban combat.

However, with the beginning of the urban fighting the advance of the troops of the coalition slowed down. Iraqi troops do not report about their losses, and experts suggest that the braking operation is due to the large number of dead and wounded coalition soldiers. So, December 15 edition Politiсо citing a Pentagon (which has been carrying out airstrikes in Mosul and cooperating with Baghdad for technical Affairs) reported that in the “Golden division”, one of the elite units of the Iraqi special forces, the losses amount to 50%. According to Politico, in total the division had 10 thousand people. However, according to its commander Fazil Barwani, in the operation in Mosul was attended by only two of the ten regiments of the division — about 2 thousand people. The losses he reported.

Referring to these data, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War warned that troops CTS will need time to regroup and recharge. During this period, army units West of Mosul will be able to consolidate its position and move to the city center from the opposite side. At the same time, December 21, the commander of the “Golden division” Baran said in an interview with the Kurdish Rudaw Agency that the city will be completely liberated “approximately two months”.