US-backed SDF fighters capture Tabqah Dam near Raqqa in a behind enemy lines operation
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with their Syrian Arab Coalition fighters, launched a multi-pronged offensive behind enemy lines on Wednesday to liberate the Tabqah Dam in Syria from ISIS. Apache helicopters, U.S. Marine artillery and special operation troops were part of this operation to drop SDF fighters near Tabqa.
“The Coalition supported this offensive with air movement and logistical support, precision airstrikes, Apache helicopters in close air support, Marine artillery, and special operations advice and assistance to SDF leadership,” the US-led coalition said in a statement.
“Over the last four months, the Coalition has conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Tabqah and near Raqqa that have killed hundreds of enemy fighters, destroyed more than 200 fortifications, and more than 50 ISIS vehicles,” the coalition added.
“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull off an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” said Col. Joe Scirocco of the coalition against ISIS. “There is nothing easy about this – it takes audacity and courage. And the SDF has that in spades.”
Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqa from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city. The area is critical to ISIS’s ability to import and harbor foreign fighters, export terror, and is ISIS’s last link to territory west of the Euphrates.
Tabqah Dam has been used as an ISIS headquarters, a prison for high-profile hostages, a training location, and for external terror plotting since ISIS took control of the location in 2013.
“The SDF and their local Syrian Arab Coalition fighters, have proven to be the most effective ground force against ISIS in Syria – and they are proving that once again with this daring operation,” said Scrocca.
Tabqah Dam is a key element of northern Syria’s economy, agriculture and way of life, and its destruction by ISIS could lead to a severe humanitarian crisis. The US-led coalition said it will take every precaution to ensure the dam’s integrity.
“It is the SDF on the ground, putting their lives at risk, and violently engaging the enemy,” said Scrocca. “And it is the SDF, like the Iraqi Security Forces, who are making the sacrifice so that other Coalition nations do not continue to suffer the threat of ISIS terrorism inside our own borders.”
“This operation demonstrates the close relationship between the US military and SDF fighters,” Washington-based analyst Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News. “A special operation, the air drop would not have even been attempted by the US military if the Americans did not have complete trust in the capabilities of the SDF.”
“Further, by supporting the SDF to seize Tabqa Dam, one of the most important and strategic infrastructure projects in all of Syria, the US military is sending a signal that through the SDF the United States intends to increase and maximize its leverage on all actors, local and foreign, in the conflict. Contrary to Turkey’s preference, the U.S. is stating that there is no future settlement in Syria without the SDF,” Heras concluded.