US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab members, said they fully seized the vital town of Tabqa and Syria's largest dam on the Euphrates River from Daesh on Wednesday.
SDF have been battling Daesh for weeks in Tabqa, some 40 kilometres west of Raqqa, along the Euphrates River.
They captured Tabqa "thanks to the sacrifices of the SDF's heroes and with the full, unlimited support of the US-led international coalition," said SDF spokesman Talal Silo.
A majority of the members in the SDF belong to the mostly the YPG – an armed wing of the PYD which Turkey considers a Syrian affiliate of the terror group PKK. Attacks claimed by the PKK has claimed numerous lives in Turkey. The YPG – especially the support it gets from the US – has been a high-tension issue between Ankara and Washington.
Though the development came after the Tabqa offensive, the Trump administration's recent decision to strategically arm "the Kurdish elements" of the SDF has caused Turkey much concern. It has voiced its opposition to the move in no uncertain terms to the US, even as both NATO countries are striving to rid Syria of Daesh. The US has attempted to downplay the longevity of its SDF project but will continue with its current strategy of arming it against the Daesh.
Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter Daesh, confirmed on Twitter that Tabqa had been retaken.
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) May 10, 2017
TRT World's Middle East reporter Abubakr al Shamahi explains the battle for Tabqa.
Success in Tabqa
The battle for Tabqa began after US forces helped SDF members conduct an airborne landing on the southern bank of the Euphrates River in late March, allowing them to gain control of an important nearby air base. The SDF pushed into Tabqa nearly two weeks ago, capturing most of its districts and encircling Daesh at the dam.
SDF was preparing to launch an assault on Raqqa, Daesh’s biggest urban stronghold, after it reclaimed Tabqa.
But the Raqqa campaign stalled around Tabqa, where the SDF made slow progress after besieging the city.
Raqqa lies in a Daesh enclave on the northern bank of the Euphrates River. The SDF has closed in on the city from the north, east and west in recent months.
Daesh’s only means of crossing to its main territory south of the river is by boat after air strikes knocked the area's bridges out of service.