"Following the capture of 8 villages earlier in the day, the US-backed ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) swept through another five ISIS-held villages in a huge offensive that now has Kurdish forward units stationed at the northern bank of the Euphrates River in a region some 40 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Raqqa.
Effectively, the SDF were able to impose full control over the villages of Al Kajla, Judayat Khabur, Hamad Assaf, Al Kulayb and Al Kulayb and the latter’s Grain Silos. Further operations are ongoing along the Euphrates River as ISIS militants have left behind several areas without firing a single bullet.
With phase III of the ‘Euphrates Wrath’ offensive firmly underway, the SDF are trying to set its forces up for the final assault on Raqqa city itself. Meanwhile, 850 locals from Hasakah city were recruited into Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) on Tuesday." (Al Masdar News)
These lightly armed guys and gals are kicking major jihadi ass. It must be a joy for the Green Berets to work with them. They appear to be naturals at maneuver warfare. Here are a few maps to show their recent progress and future plans.
There is also a good documentary on France 2 TV about a YPG unit taking part in phase I of the Wrath of Euphrates offensive. I put the link to this documentary below. Perhaps some of you French speakers can provide some additional information. I can tell the unit ends up on the shore of Lake Assad overlooking the Tabqa dam. Although the unit uses a BMP-1 and what appears to be a T-62, I am amazed at how lightly armed and equipped they are. One of the YPG fighters is a former French soldier. I found it interesting that the Russians are organizing two ultra-light brigades of "technicals" based on their experience in Syria. It’s all about flexibility.
General Votel recently recommended to SecDef Mattis that we increase our support to the YPG/SDF beyond the Special Forces trainers/advisors and air support we are currently providing. He suggested increased logistical support, armored vehicles and other heavy weapons. He does not recommend the introduction of U.S. combat formations. I hope Mattis takes recommendations directly from the SF teams currently working with the YPG/SDF. They’re the ones who know what’s truly needed. The last thing we should do is to try to remake an already effective light fighting force into something they are not meant to be.
The Turks aren’t going to like any of this. They can all go piss up a rope as far as I’m concerned. I also hope Mattis and McMaster can disabuse Trump of that cockamamie idea of Saudi-funded safe zones in Syria. Why he’s still pushing that idea is beyond me.
UPDATE: A gracious gentleman from Montreal provided this translation/annotation for the France 2 documentary. For all us non-French speakers, it is enlightening.
"The video follows a former french soldier in his 30s from his 1st day fighting Daesch side-by-side with the Kurds at 10km from Raqqa. 0:53 Ten soldiers from Daesch are counter-attacking. 1:30: they are waiting for reinforcement from the christians. 2:30 Cedric is asking permission to attack Daesch's positions. 4:05 Before counter-attack by the Kurds, they evacuate the civilians 5:00 all civilians are assembled at a crossroad in front of the military base 7:20 Localisation of the Daesch commando known at noon. Cedric's unit takes position on a roof in the middle of the town. 8:50 Shooting a rocket at a house with Daesch soldiers. 9:30 French and American aviation support ground troops. 10:00 Securing the town. Battle over. Two houses were blown-up in the battle. 10:50 There were 12 Daesch fighters originating from Syria, China and Russia. Cedric comments that diabolising the ennemy makes you no better than him. 11:40 They were all kamikazees as they were all wearing an explosives belt. 12:40 Civilians from the whole town are being transported elsewhere. 13:10 Many civilians take revenge on Daesch by enrolling with the kurds despite being arabs. 13:30 Omar is one such example. 13:37 During the attack, Daesch installed bombs. These kill more than suicide attacks. 13:50 Hidden mine activated by movement detection 15:15 The leader of the group is a 28 yrs old woman. In that laic fighting movement, half of the fighters are women. 16:15 second night on the front line for Cedric: "I will adapt. I am here to help" 16:55 It is illegal for a french citizen to join an armed group. This is why he is hiding his identity. 17:20 Cedric "I knew I had to go." He left the french army to come. "It is a different experience than with the army. The fighters have romanticism about their cause." 18:40 Cedric's group is sent to the frontline in armored vehicle. 19:10 They are at the Euphrate's dam. It is a strategic point to enter Raqqa. The tank is firing at their last stronghold. 20:15 Daesch built dozens of tunnels on both side of the dam. 21:30 Cedric is sent to an outpost closer to the dam. His unit's order is to keep Daesch from coming in until dawn. 22:50 Watching one Daesch soldier with a drone 23:20 Kurdish soldier "War is good. You came from France to fight here. If there is a war in France, I'll go there to fight with you." 24:15 Mask taken from a dead Daesch soldier. 25:00 Cedric comes back to camp. 25:30 Other sections had a tough day. Daesch attacked villages to the east but they were contained. 25:55 Cedric: "I'm here only for the Raqqa operation and I'll then go back" 26:46 Daesch is counter-attacking around the dam. They are coordinating bombings with the american aviation. 27:30 During the fiming, 3 kurds were injured and 2 killed. 27:50 Raqqa will not fall for many more months."