On Friday, the Islamic State lost the strategic northern Syrian town of Manbij after it was driven out by U.S. backed forces after months of fights. ISIS, tough still controlling important territories, has gone through several defeats in both Syria and Iraq.
Manbij fell Friday to the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces after continuous attacks and fighting over the last two months with the help of U.S led airstrikes. Now, this is a significant loss for the Islamic State, since the northern Syrian town of Manbij happens to be found on the supply route between the Turkish border and the de facto self-proclaimed caliphate capital, Raqqa. The events follow a series of defeats against ISIS in the last months.
A jubilant Manbij
As Manbij was liberated from the Islamic State, the people went to the streets to celebrate they had been freed from the extremist repression. People chanted against IS, and some men took the opportunity to remove their beards, and several women uncovered their faces. Others were smoking while the music was played in the squares and markets.
“You are our children, you are our heroes,” yelled a woman to the soldiers who made ISIS leave the northern town. “You are the blood of our hearts. You are our eyes. Get away Daesh” she added after more than a year and a half of fights.
“May God destroy them. They slaughtered us”, said a young man to ISIS as amateur videos relating stories in Manbij were posted in the social media.
Additionally, as they got away from the town, the Islamic State soldiers took some hostages to use them as human shields. But they were later released. They were happy to return to their hometown.
ISIS’ spirit has been broken
The Arab and Kurdish forces have been fighting in the area, with the support of the international military coalition against ISIS’ extremism. Since late June they have managed to expel the extremist group out of Manbij from a few at a time. Hence, both the Arab and Kurdish forces are planning to advance towards Raqqa, the capital of the IS caliphate, which was declared two years ago.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the fighting in Manbij has taken the lives of 1700 people including those of 400 civilians and 299 SDF soldiers. Among the deceased was top Kurdish Commander, Abu Layla, who died back in June after being wounded during the fighting.
ISIS is a global threat, and it has committed thousands of acts of terror including claiming major terrorist attacks such as the ones occurred in Nice, Orlando, Baghdad and Paris (Charlie Hebdo). But it has spread terror in both Syria and Iraq territories for the last two years since the caliphate was self-proclaimed. It still controls significant areas- including Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul-, but for the last months the coalition against ISIS has made ISIS leave valuable possessions.
Ahmad Hisso, the spokesman of the SDF, said on Sunday that they believe that ISIS would use suicide car bombs in the city as acts of revenge.
Sean MacFarland, the top U.S commander for the fight against the Islamic State, said that about 45000 extremist militants have been driven out from the battlefield in Syria and that the number of militants from ISIS has been reduced to 15000.
The fights against ISIS continue
The SDF assured that the military operations would continue until all the towns are free from extremist presence. Manbij is the biggest defeat for ISIS since the last year when they were obliged to leave Tal Abyad, located near the Turkish border, which disable the group to have a direct route for new foreign supplies and recruitment.
Moreover, there have been other territorial setbacks for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In June Iraqi forces took Fallujah back, located one hour away from Baghdad, after five weeks of offensive. It had fallen in 2014 to ISIS. In March, Palmyra was recuperated with the aid of Russian Airstrikes. In Palmyra, ISIS destroyed thousands of historic temples and monuments.
Ramadi was declared as “fully liberated” by Iraq in February after intense months of fighting. The city was practically destroyed. As well, the SDF captured more than 900 km2 of territory under ISIS’ control in Syria including Shaddadeh, located in the strip of land that connects Mosul and Raqqa.
The Libyan city of Sirte, was a valuable possession of ISIS, the Libyan forced started offensives two months ago and early this week it was retaken by the forces expelling ISIS from that area.
Source: The Wall Street Journal