Thousands of U.S.-backed fighters in Syria are launching an offensive to capture from Islamic State a crucial swathe of northern Syria known as the Manbij pocket following weeks of quiet preparations, U.S. officials disclosed to Reuters. The operation, which only just started to get underway on Tuesday and could take weeks to complete, aims to choke off Islamic State's access to Syrian territory along the Turkish border that militants have long used as a logistics base for moving foreign fighters back and forth to Europe. "It's significant in that it's their last remaining funnel" to Europe, a U.S. military official said.
A small number of U.S. special operations forces will support the offensive on the ground, acting as advisors and staying some distance back from the front lines, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military planning. "They'll be as close as they need to be for the (Syrian fighters) to complete the operation. But they will not engage in direct combat," the official said. (Reuters)
This YPG/SDF offensive expands the previously announced offensive moving towards Raqqa. I have no idea why Reuters calls it the Manbij pocket. It’s the main line of communications/supply between IS and Turkey. IMHO cutting this LOC should be a, if not the, primary offensive objective of both the R+6 and YPG/SDF coalitions. All else will follow.
In addition to expanding the Tishrin bridgehead, the YPG/SDF has crossed the Euphrates River some 25 miles north of Tishrin. This was done by ferrying men and equipment across the river and by repairing the damaged bridge at Qarah Qawzaq with a military pontoon bridge. My guess is that there were a couple of SF engineering sergeants involved in that operation. Judging by the map, the YPG/SDF has made a lot of progress from this new bridgehead. So much for Erdogan’s red line. The Kurds have crossed the Euphrates with U.S airpower and Special Forces advice and expertise. This has to infuriate Erdogan a lot more than seeing U.S. special operations forces wearing YPG and YPJ arm patches.
In deference to the sensitivities of our NATO ally, the U.S. is assuring Erdogan that the Arabs of the SDF comprise the majority of the offensive forces targeting Manbij and that the Kurds will not enter the city of Manbij itself. Yeah… right. The Kurds want to link up with their brothers to the West and I seriously doubt they are concerned about Erdogan’s hurt feelings. They are still better off staying out of the reach of Turkish artillery.
The map from edmaps.com also shows a lot of disputed areas reaching up to Jarabulus. This indicates a lot of skirmishing and raiding going on. I see the hand of my Green Beret bretheren in this as well.
As I have been saying all along, this is how the U.S. should be fighting the IS. Let the NCOs, warrant officers and company grade officers of U.S. Special Forces work with those willing to fight. Keep all the high muckety-mucks out of the AO. We wasted too much time and resources screwing the pooch with the unicorn army and the idiotic “Assad must go” nonsense. Once IS and its allies are defeated, the Kurds can negotiate their own accords with Damascus. I am convinced some federated arrangement would be beneficial to all Syrians.
Erdogan’s line that Kurds shall not rule the “Arab” city Manbij seems just delusional. Kurdish Twitter ppl today shared a lot a video of Kurdish Newroz party in Manbij in 2013, before ISIS took over.
Also, for the city Al Bab – west of Manbij – a solution has just been created. Refugees from Al Bab in Kurdish Afrin just formed a Civil Council to govern Al Bab after the city will have been liberated from ISIS.
So, to me it looks like the YPG and their partners have a working plan to liberate the whole stretch of land from the Euphrate to Afrin and govern it after they liberate it.
For the Syrian government I think that solution is also fine, because the YPG can be expected to effectively function as a barrier against terrorism sponsored by Turkey. Some people said in recent days, that the SAA build up a lot of troops in Aleppo. That would fit. While the SDF/YPG gets their beloved unified Kurdish territory from Qamishli to Afrin, the Syrian government would get control about the city of Aleppo. It would be fine for all, except for Erdogan, who would get nothing for his sponsorship of terrorism in Syria. But he is not Syrian anyway.
Apologies in advance if this is too far off topic, but as there is no recent open thread into which to place this, I hope that I may be forgiven.
John Helmer has just put up a warning post concerning the rapid ratcheting up of tensions between Russia and the US and the EuroPoodles that I think valuable to throw out for the consideration of the Committee members at large. Parenthetically, my comments on this article that follow propose a hypothesis concerning the rather puzzling major draw down of Russian air forces in Syria when events were rapidly advancing there, and it is at least a tenuous rationale for my temerity in asking for this indulgence, Colonel Lang.
What now follows is my reaction to this article (in a thread over at Naked Capitalism in which Hillary’s prospects were under discussion). Am I over the top here? I am not sure, but I have not been encouraged by the lack of probity on display from our so-called leaders in the west.
Yeah, nobody is listening at all to President Putin and the wider Russian policy and military establishments as they warn, attempt diplomacy, and give the clearest possible indication by the actions of their military that they feel themselves seriously – very seriously – threatened by the aggressive actions on their borders by the US and the NATO pink poodles.
Probably, The Moustache of Understanding, Thomas Friedman, would consider this to be no problem for him, his family, and the US. So what if Romanians, Poles, whatever, die? The conflict would remain contained to Central Europe, right? Think of the propaganda opportunities. They’re just dizzying. Get Vicky, Samantha, Michele on the job, stat!
But you know what? If those harridans set foot in Central Europe, they would be in serious danger of being lynched by the terrified peoples of those nations with whose lives they so casually dice, and rightly so. Playing with matches in a dynamite factory is to be discouraged, and that is all that these fools seem capable of.
Some people seem mystified by why the Russians have pulled some of their air assets out of Syria while the outcomes of the war are still in doubt. Well, they’re being redeployed back to Russia against the need to throw them into combat against the US and the NATO pink poodles (who seem to love to sidle up to Russia and lift their legs to piss on their President and their national security; talk about your stoopid dogs). So, no, there is no mystery here at all. Things have gotten dead serious now that these missiles are actually being deployed, and no longer being dissimulated as being directed against possible lunatic Iranian aggression; their true target, always known for anyone with two neurons to spark against one another, is Russia. As opposed to past invasions from the west, when their nation is threatened by hypersonic missiles, there is no strategic depth provided by the landmass of Russia. The Russians know this all too well, and they are not blowing smoke here. Finally, President Putin has learned that he has no “partners”, one of his favorite phrases in the past when referring to the west, with whom to have a serious dialogue. Instead, he has only that callow jackass Obama and the compliant dwarves of Europe leering at him, and ipso facto, no one with whom dialogue is possible.
As they say here in Southern New Jersey when the Pine Barrens are dry as tinder, we have a Red Flag Warning, and a forest fire is an imminent danger. The consequences of such a localized event are as nothing compared to the dire danger into which our western fools are blithely tripping.
God save us all.
The edmaps map is interesting. Da’esh would appear about to lose (if not already have lost) control of the main Menbij-Meskeneh road.
Also noteworthy is that the SAA appears to have resumed its advance toward Deir Hafir, putting the lower portion of the Menbij-Meskeneh road under threat.
What does the rapid advance south west from Qara Qosak say about Da’esh preparedness? They must have been expecting a YPG/SDF advance thereabouts.
TTG, a question. I was looking at the tributary that feeds the southwestern bank of Lake Assad. There appear to me to be at most six bridges across it all the way west to Al Jaboul Lake. Given current YPG/SDF advances, could six fixed targets be all that is needed to cut truck routes from IS territory to Turkey? I am not aware of any instance where IS built a bridge of any kind. IS supply and diesel delivery trucks needs bridges across that waterway.
CENTCOM spokesman said they hit six ISIL-used bridges today. One of them was the bridge north of the YPG/SDF second bridgehead to prevent IS reinforcements from Jarabulus counterattacking the bridgehead.
That main crossing over that waterway (35.794377, 38.276399) that I think you’re referring to seems to be little more than a culvert under the highway. I think hitting that would be more an inconvenience than a serious interdiction. I would also think there are plenty of smaller routes available that we can’t see on Google Maps. Cutting the IS lifeline to Turkey through airstrikes is probably a lot tougher than either of us imagine.
Sadly, a federated (or confederated) Kurd province in Syria makes way too much sense to be the eventual solution.
Of course one can expect all sorts of obstruction and provocations from Turkey.
But there is also the question of who will run the province: the R+6 backed Kurds or the US-backed Kurds?
I’m currently reading on the Peace of Westphalia, and I think it should inspire our diplomacy. But then nobody is seeking peace and balance of power, they take any shaky status quo as an achievement.
The history of airpower decisively cutting supply lines has been dismal at best. The SAA needs to link up with YPG-SDF forces east of Al-Bab as only this will finally sever the Turkish coronary artery which feeds the heart of ISIS.
I wouldn’t interpret too much into that edmaps – and other war maps showing details tiny territories neither. Regarding that edmaps it seems to me a bit too good for the SDF to be true. There are for example various reports of ISIS positions still holding out and serious fighting going on (eg the Karsan direction) in the territory marked as solidly captured by SDF in the last too days. On the other hand in some territories that are shown by edmaps as fighting where there are no reports of fighting (eg the Jarabulus direction). The Manbij-Maskanah road was close to the frontline already for a couple of months, now there were some reports of fighting at that front again. For itself the road is insignificant, at least for as long as there is an easy detour open for ISIS 10 km further in the west.
But given the quick progress of the YPG/SDF for now, we may well hope that the reality soon becomes better than the edmaps shows it and that the YPG/SDF manage to close all roads of ISIS between Turkey and Raqqa in the coming days. To me it looks like ISIS is quite overstretched in Syria and they can’t man all the fronts where they fight anymore.
One of the problems is to what extent can we trust the Kurds not to have a hidden long-term agenda.
Take this 2013 article in Rudaw. It does raise a few question at least from a European perspective regarding the risk of more refugees.
Rudaw is a Kurdish news group based in Erbil
1-Could you tell me why USA is fighting in the ME?
2-What kind of an end-game is envisioned in Syria?
I am really asking what happens when your brethern leave. Do you see a coherent strategy for the future, crafted in partnership with the R+6, or will the US guarantee some kind of future for the Kurds from its own, unlimited, resources? Perhaps a second Israel is in the works?
BTW, this is just in:
“The Chicago Police Department just released crime statistics for last month.
There were 66 murders in May — compared to 46 in the same month in 2015.
CPD says there were 397 shooting victims last month. They’re blaming the violent crime on repeat criminals tied to gangs with illegal guns.” ( http://wgntv.com/2016/06/01/chicago-murder-rate-jumps-in-may-2016-compared-to-may-2015/)
It is a strange world we live in.
This is partially in response to Jersey Jeffersonian, who, with great respect to him, I believe has almost got it right. What is more, we are at a key moment in history, namely the choice between Donald Trump and Clinton.
First, I highly recommend Yves Smith’s (a woman) article entitled, “Why Some of the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump over Hillary” at http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/06/wall-street-2016-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-213931.
Then, I call attention to this article in today’s New York Times, “Hillary Clinton to Portray Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Positions as Dangerous” at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/02/us/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-foreign-policy.html“.
Syria, NATO, Ukraine, Iraq,.. It’s all about electoral politics. And what is going on is very specific. Putin must be provoked into doing something that the general public thinks is a direct threat to their existence. Think Ebola, which gave the Republican Party both Houses of Congress. It is clearly not enough for every media outlet in the developed world to paint Putin as a dangerous lunatic. He has to do something that will *prove* he is a dangerous lunatic. Because prove Putin is a dangerous lunatic and the Neocon Ship of State is safe. Hillary is elected in a landslide.
But it’s not necessarily going to work that way. Because Russia knows exactly what is going on. This explains the cessation of hostilities. It explains the concert at Palmyra. It explains exchanging the UkroNazi war criminal for two Russian probably Spetznaz officers. It explains why Russian’s role in Syria will be very muted going forward. In sum, it explains everything.
The only place where Russia is vulnerable is East Ukraine, and the Ukrainian troops are shelling Russian-speaking civilians like crazy right now. What is more, I think the generally accepted narrative is that Ukraine has the right to take back Crimea by force. Hence, if Ukraine actually invades Donbass it will be seen as an appropriate response to Putin’s lunacy. NATO is being “reinforced” rapidly right now, and perhaps the thought is that once there are enough NATO troops in Eastern Europe, the green light will be given to the Ukrainians to invade Donbass and retake Crimea.
The Russians know all this. They realize this is all electoral politics. They realize the Neocon Order is under severe threat and will do anything to survive.
Historically, Russia has been a very tough nut to crack. Let us see how successful the Neocon’s will be.
To the musicians in the group, I leave you with this. Look up Joseph Schillinger on the Internet. George Gershwin was one (of many) of his students. His influence was enormous. He was Russian. But like the feats of the Russian Army in Manchuria at the end of WWII, he is almost unknown. We should be allied with Russia, not its enemy.
Yes. A SAA/SDF ground link up west of Manbij would be ruinous for just about all of IS SE of that block. I would imagine that both IS and Turkey would devote a lot of effort to removing that blockage. This could cause a major further deterioration in US/Turkish relations if Turkish air starts striking SDF forces advised by US SF (GBs) and supported by US air. The South Front and AMN sites keep saying that US SF is “spearheading” the SDF advances. IMO they don’t understand what GBs do. “Spearheading” is the wrong concept. Herding cats is the right image. I also agree with TTG that a key to success in the SDF campaign is to keep senior US officers out of the area. pl
IZ, pleased to see you around. You are slightly cynical, aren’t you? Do Chicago crime statistics matter to “gated community” elites? Ultimately the ones that decide.
But yes times have changed or lot post “mission accomplished” and early rumors around American (neocon)/Israel intentions to split up Iran into “ethnically” clean enclaves. …
The Kurds, no doubt, are taking their chances well.
The answers to your questions depends on who you ask. Our current Borg government is still wedded to reshaping the ME to its liking. The Borg are in cahoots with the Likudniks and the house of Saud in this unholy endeavor. This Borg policy has caused nothing but misery both in the ME and in the US and will continue to do so as as as it is pursued. It has been a disaster that lead to the rise of the IS. In Syria I’m afraid we are still stuck in the “Assad must go” mode. I don’t think the Borg have any real clue of what Syria would look like if Assad is removed quickly and violently. They just don’t care. As you can probably gather, I consider the Borg dreams for the ME and Syria to be idiotic, disastrous and just flat evil.
I consider what is happening with our current involvement with the YPG/SDF to be a happy accident. Our goal seems to be to assist a willing and capable force to defeat the IS. Unfortunately we’re still dedicated to the removal of Assad. My fear is that we will try to mold the YPG/SDF into the new force to remove Assad. Perhaps the Kurds will see through this and be on guard against it. I think they should refuse US assistance beyond what they’re getting now. If any State Department types show up, they should be quickly lost in the desert.
The last and, in my opinion, most important phases of conducting UW is the demobilization phase. In this phase Special Forces seeks to integrate the fighting forces it advises into a new or existing government. The endgame I would envision for Syria is a defeated IS along with their unicorn army allies, some kind of Rojava as part of a federated Syria with YPG/SDF integration into the SAA, the current Assad government still in power in Damascus for the time being, and all US forces out of Syria including the Green Berets. An occasional MTT would be great, but no permanent U.S. presence outside the Embassy in Damascus.
Vaguely with Poul’s response above in mind, and adding concerning: “taking their chances”. From a more basic European perspective, they better do.
oops, Babak, will like this slip:
rumors about splitting up Iraq into ethnically clean enclaves, I meant.
But apart from trying to amend disagreements with Israel post Gaza flotilla incident, how are Turkey’s relations to Iran? By the way.
1 – Religious sentiment on behalf of Israel
2 – None
The NATO alliance, however, is strengthening its presence in Southern Persian Gulf, in anticipation, I suppose, of war with Iran in some future time.
I think it impossible to create a federal system in Syria or in Iraq or in Turkey.
Besides such considerations as “Persistence of the Past”, one has to deal with the fact that “Federalism” is the Trojan Horse of ethnic cleansing among these communities.
Personally, I think, an improved version of Lebanon’s confessional system is most suited to Syria; but that is just my opinion.
As far as I know the northern Syrian Kurd factions are broadly speaking pro-Syrian, not Great Kurdistan irredentists.
It may be a different story for Iraqi, Iranian, and Turkish Kurds who have different backgrounds and different backings.
As someone said here: it’s like herding cats.
Also, if you have many cats, your house smells. And they will eat you when you die.
Thanks for the detailed response. Like Poul intimates in a post above, the agenda Kurds are pursuing might not exactly fit with your preferred outcome. I will watch with interest as you all try and unify these tribes. I would be surprised if the result turns out to be better than the current Libya. IMO, at the end, the issue will be solved locally, by those who are left standing after “political islam” collapses.
I think you’re quite right – both in the assessment of what’s going on, and of the end state.
Democracies are supposed to be less likely to go to war with each other. Therefore turning Baathist/Kemalist regimes into western democracies was seen as a healthy objective in order to achieve global peace.
However, somewhere along the line the Borg seems to have realized that Democracy can’t be achieved fast enough for it to happen during the time they’re in office, and has settled for the western-friendly moderate-islamist-government model instead: the Unicorn. Turkey is becoming more Unicornist every day. Egypt has been there, done that, and backed out after milk and honey didn’t magically fall out the sky after all women had been veiled and locked out in the kitchen.
Anyway the R+6 endgame is to get a Syria as close as it used to be as possible, probably at the price of de-centralizing government, and democratic reform.
However, should there eventually be elections, Assad, his cousin or his dog could very well win.
LOL, very appropriate analogy.
Giving Salih Muslim’s position among the Syrian Kurds I take his statement quite seriously. But what is wished for and what is feasiable are two different thing so he may be willing to make a long term deal with the Syrian government.
Good summary. But in terms of federalization, I have to go with Babak’s conclusion–most likely impossible.
Nah, almost all the protagonists and antagonists of World War I were representative systems of government. In particular and in my opinion, to this day, the Hapsburg achievement embodied in the Austro-Hungarian Empire has not be recaptured since its demise in 1918.
I would not even dignify WWI as an ideological struggle – there was nothing that you could even remotely construe as being ideological grounds for war – unlike the “Abolitionists” and “States Rights” partisan in the American Civil War.
It was almost like that they liked to go to war for fun and excitement.
Found this at The Saker but I think it deserves a read, Lavrov diplomatic skills are amazing, even more so when adressing Russian public:
Yes that was the bridge I referenced. I find only 6 or so looking carefully out to Al Jaboul Lake. While the barrier wouldn’t be absolute it need only stop semi-trucks with diesel fuel trailer loads to have a devastating impact on IS financially. I think its their only route to NW Syria given the change in front lines.
Actually, IMO a continuous line would not be necessary or even desirable. A series of defended positions well dug in and with adequate fire support. Extensive barrier mine fields around these positions to canalize and hold truck movement in beaten zones would IMO be the way to go. pl
Also the Turkish-Syrian border zone (safe zone) is being defined by the kilometer reach of Turkish artillery at about 25 km. I’m guessing. Today Cavusoglu complained that the US has been slow in delivering to Turkey HIMARS missiles which would of course increase that range. Things get delayed in shipping all the time especially when Turkey can confuse Kurdish positions with American SFs for IS targets in such a confusing battlezone.
Your approach has advantages if the bridges can be used later. I’d just note that IS has a habit of blowing bridges in Iraq when they think they can’t hold the ground but no history of rebuilding bridges. In this case they really need those few bridges/crossing points between Al Jaboul Lake and Lake Assad intact. Some unattended ground sensors, some artillery and mines would really make them pay a high price to keep them open. And if IS has to retreat there is going to be a lot of traffic on them or a lot of vehicles stuck in the river bottom.
Col., I’ve been thinking about this cat herding problem. I wonder if some well timed C130 landings with pallets of catnip and cash could rent unity of effort from the disparate militias long enough to make a difference against IS? IS has their unity through terror, but we have catnip and a lot of hungry cats.
Catnip? You have a problem with that? War needs funding. What do you want “bloody footsteps in the snow?” pl
Meanwhile in Germany
No I am totally in favor. If for a brief period we can get tens of thousands of militiamen to shoot at IS instead of each other it would be a fabulous use of money.
It’s hard not to see some manner of coordination between this SDF/YPG-push across the Firat river and this action here by SAA, which is comprised of several thousand men:
Various sources report that the CAA moved along the highway Salaam-Raqqa, establishing control over the Jabal Abu Al-Zein and district Maßbach: https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/738414965225361408 Everything east of Daishev.
The advantages to taking this route rather than go directly to Deir ez-Zur: For one, in the vicinity is the Tabqa air-base to be captured, as well as the southeastern end of the Assad lake and the Baath dam to be secured. Securing said lake and dam would be shorter way than the route from Palmyra to Deir ez-Zur to effectively block ISIL’s movement to the northwest, and further, once Tabqa and surroundings are secure, there’s the Resafa-junction in reach, which, via ash-Shola, also leads to Deir ez-Zur.
Given the size of the SAA-deployment, they appear set to make this one count. All this while the unicorns at Mare’/Azzaz keep ISIL busy and SDF/YPG put Manbij increasingly under pressure and, at least theoretically, pose a threat to Raqqa from the north.
Maybe I should sign with Granny Hasbara, as someone suggested here indirectly a while ago.
Whatever the religious aspect may be, this would get us into a pretty difficult religio/nationalist historical debate it feels.
unlike the “Abolitionists” and “States Rights” partisan in the American Civil War.
I am not sure. But interesting argument.
In other words you would add the Austrian empire (cum Hungary?) to your definition of (present) Diocletians, based on Charlemagne being some type of successor of Diocletianus?
There is no debate here; multiple sense of Justice are in conflict and, in principle, there are only 2 choices:
– Defeat (like the Apache)
– Cease-fire (like Peace of Yalta)
Debate would be meaningful if we were all part of the same Justice paradigm – but we are not and we won’t be as we all stick to our identity.
A mosaic of intrinsically weak but autonomous ethno-linguistic and ethno-religious communities are best governed through Imperial structures if perpetual war is to be avoided.
The demise of the Great King was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the last 2300 years, followed by the demise of the Seljuks.