Thursday, March 23, 2017

US supports major raid in an effort to cut off Raqqa for ISIS.

SDF fighters with US provided vehicles in Manbij. USA Today/AP

The United States, along with their Syrian rebel allies, have launched a major raid behind enemy lines to cut off the ISIS controlled city of Raqqa. USA Today. The operation aims to take control of Tabqah dam, which controls the southern route out of the city. Hundreds of airstrikes have also occurred in the area in support of the attack. Hundreds of fighters as well as many vehicles and fortifications have been destroyed in the air attacks. The US role in the behind the lines strike involved US transport helicopters moving the Syrian rebels as well as attack helicopter and artillery support. Special forces have been deployed as well. The forces moved have so far been exclusively US trained Syrian rebels with the Kurds currently being left behind. 

My Comment:
This is a fairly ambitious move and I hope it works out. This is a risky mission and I think there is a decent chance of failure. These troops are cut off from the front lines and are totally dependent on US air support for supplies, ammo, medevac and reinforcement. With that restriction in place, there is always a chance of something going wrong. That is not a comfortable position for these troops to be in. 

On the other hand I think that our new president is more reliable than the old one. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy that would leave these troops in the lurch. If ISIS launched a counter attack, they will come under withering fire from US air support. Though something crazy could happen, I doubt ISIS would win. 

The US has deployed quite a few assets to Syria to support these rebels. We have deployed quite a bit of artillery, with 500 or so more Marines having been deployed to Syria. These Marines can utterly obliterate ISIS attacks, as long as they get good targeting information. That's along with our attack helicopters and airstrikes. Given this level of support the rebels would have to be completely incompetent or ISIS would have to show the kind of luck that seems to have abandoned them a long time ago. Still, given how crazy the war against ISIS has been, I wouldn't rule it out. 

As for the plan itself, it makes quite a bit of sense. Though the Tabqah dam would not cut off all of Raqqa from ISIS's other bases, most notably Dier Ez Zor, it would cut the southern route to ISIS's forces. That would further isolate Raqqa, but more importantly, it would also isolate the forces near the Palmyra area. Remember, the Syrian regime has launched a blistering counterattack in that region and have already taken back Palmyra. Taking the dam would create an anvil that the Syrian hammer can smash ISIS with. Too bad there are other routes between the Palmyra area in the West and Dier Ez Zor and Iraq in the west. 

Still, it's fairly impressive how close anti-ISIS forces are to Raqqa now. The front lines are a lot closer then they used to be and both the Syrian rebels and Kurds are advancing quicker than I thought they would be. It seems as though ISIS is in full retreat almost everywhere right now. That is, of course, a good thing. I predicted in the past that Raqqa would likely still be in ISIS hands next year but it looks like I could be wrong. I would be very happy to be wrong though. 

I do have to say that John McCain was right (even a broken clock is right twice a day) about the Kurds. We really are slowing down the offensive by not giving the Kurds weapons. Obviously, the Turks would be furious if we did give them weapons and there is an argument against giving far leftists groups weapons, but given how terrible Tayyip Erdogan has been lately, I don't really care if we make him mad. But given the fact that we are rapidly advancing to Raqqa and taking the Tabqah dam without their help the whole issue is probably moot anyways... 

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