Syrian Democratic Forces, Iraqi forces launch final offensive against ISIS

The Syrian Democratic Forces, the main coalition partner fighting the Islamic State in Syria, launched a new push to drive the extremists from the Euphrates valley near the Iraqi border on Wednesday. The offensive is aimed at defeating one of the last slivers of land ISIS continues to control.

“Our heroic forces will liberate these areas and secure the border,” said Lilway al-Abdallah, a spokeswoman for the SDF in a statement put out to the press. The US-led coalition has been quietly suggesting that a new push was in the works for more than a week.

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The SDF paused major combat operations against ISIS in January when Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies launched an offensive in Afrin in northwest Syria. This is because one of the components of the SDF is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. They controlled Afrin until the Turkish offensive, and the SDF was concerned Turkey might also make moves toward other areas the YPG controls.

The SDF said that the operation against ISIS in the Euphrates valley and in an area along the Iraqi border is being carried out in coordination with Iraqi security forces across the border. Iraq has recently launched air raids on ISIS positions in Syria because ISIS exploits its access to the border to sneak back and forth. Coordination between the Iraqis, the coalition and the SDF is expected to seal off ISIS and lead to its defeat.

The SDF emphasizes that its war on ISIS is part of building a “new and democratic Syria, free of terrorists, with its territorial integrity intact.” They also say that their forces include Arabs, Kurds, Christians and Turkmens, to emphasize that it is not just a Kurdish force the way some have portrayed it.

Over the last few months there has been uncertainty about the continued United States‘s role and potential of conflict between elements of the SDF and Turkey. Pro-regime forces west of the Euphrates have also sought to test the US and SDF resolve by attacking SDF positions in February and April. With these distractions, the war on ISIS was put on hold. Now the expectation is that ISIS will finally be defeated in eastern Syria.