Syria: What after Kurdish militias’ great advance against ISIS in Deir Ezzor?

Syria: KuSyria: What after Kurdish militias' great advance against ISIS in Deir Ezzor?

The Kurdish-dominated Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) completed its advancement and made new gains in the ISIS-held province of Deir Ezzor, aiming to widen its influence in the area and support its campaign to retrieve Raqqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, is supported by the US as the latter uses them in its war against ISIS.

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of Kurdish PKK militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition and a long fight by the SDF forces ended in recapturing Manbij from the control of the Islamic State (ISIS) group last year.

The SDF, backed by US coalition, launched also a campaign with the ultimate aim of capturing Raqqa in November and succeeded in encircling the city. Recently, they launched an assault on Deir Ezzor province to cut the road to Raqqa and surrounding ISIS effectively.

Advancement in Deir Ezzor

Most of Deir Ezzor province is under the control of Islamic state group (ISIS).

ISIS took a large part of the city of Deir Ezzor in July 2014 and forced a crippling siege on the regime’s remaining areas since January 2015, and maintained a supply road to its stronghold in Raqqa to the north.

The SDF advance into the province is part of an operation to encircle and ultimately capture the group’s Syrian capital of Raqqa in the north of the country.

One aim of the campaign is to cut ISIS’s supply lines from Raqqa to Deir al-Zor province and widen the Kurdish militias’ influence in the area, making it harder for the Turkish forces to oust them or put pressure on their held-region.

“Military operations of the SDF are now taking place within the provincial boundaries of Deir al-Zor, from the north – so, via southern Hasaka (province),” the Kurdish military source told Reuters.

This campaign is backed by the US-led coalition air force, as it pave the way for the SDF fighters to advance.

During the third phase of the offensive, the SDF has captured 40 villages over until Friday, thus reducing territory held by ISIS by about 680 square kilometers.

The SDF followed up on the advancements by capturing the villages of Qamar, Hilo and Maliha al-Sar on Saturday.

Effectively, Kurdish forces are little more than 50 kilometers from reaching the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor where Assad regime forces remain besieged by ISIS.

Ready to fight Turkey

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of Kurdish PKK militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

Erdogan said he wants to set up a safe zone near the Turkish border and clear the terrorism threat from, which includes Kurdish forces as well as ISIS, from the area.

Therefore, Turkey sought to cast the YPG out of Manbij and to be the efficient part in Raqqa battle, and Turkish presedent has spoken about these matters with the US president Donald Trump recently

“Manbij and Raqqah are our next targets,” Erdogan said, adding that “The goal is to establish a safe, terror-free zone of 4 to 5,000 kilometers, and to prevent migration from Syria, and ensure the return of [Syrian] people who live now in our camps.”

The commander of Kurdish fighters in Manbij, Adnan Abu Amjad, said that his forces will fight to defend any move by Turkey to take over the area.

Abu Amjad said: “If Erdogan wants to come to Manbij, it’s his business, but we will defend our city with all the strength we can find. As Syrian people, we’ll resist any interference in our internal affairs.”

Ilham Ehmed, co-leader of the Syrian Democratic Council, also declared similar comments.

“The military council and locals will mount fierce resistance if Manbij is attacked,” she told Sputnik news.

“Turkey has chosen the administration created in northern Syria as a direct target for its attacks. Turkey has openly stated that it is determined to launch an attack on the territory controlled by Kurdish forces. … Turkey has said that it plans to capture Manbij and Afrin after al-Bab,” she noted. Ankara has said that its Operation Euphrates Shield is primarily aimed at fighting ISIS, “however, there are no ISIS fighters in Manbij,” she added.

Ilham Ehmed suggested that Turkey is “not interested” in bringing peace and stability to Syria.

“Ankara is trying to take Syria under control by seizing Manbij and other regions. This lies at the heart of its intervention and combat operations in Syria,” she said.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.