Turning Point: Coordinated Operations in the War on ISIS

Coordinated military offensives against ISIS have begun in the Middle East. In Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga, with Special Ops and Coalition support, have begun an attack on an ISIS held city that controls an ISIS supply road. In Syria, Kurdish YPG and YPJ units, also backed by airstrikes and U.S. Special Operations, are attacking a town on their side of the border that controls the same road. Concurrently, Russian backed Syrian forces have taken an airport that ISIS has controlled since 2013. And in the EU, there was a wide sweep with arrests of ISIS linked jihadists.

ISIS is fighting back with booby traps and car bombs, including an attack in Beirut that has killed dozens, with offensives against Kurds in Syria, with, potentially, the downed Russian airplane over the Sinai, with the twin bombings recently in Turkey, and with jihadist planned attacks in Europe. But the war has changed. The Syrian tragedy seems to have come into focus for Russia, Assad and their Hezbollah allies, for the U.S., their Kurdish allies, and for the Iraqi and Syrian Arabs who are fed up with ISIS and who now may be working together.

In Iraq, 7,500 Kurdish Peshmerga, along with U.S. Special Forces and Coalition air support, have moved to retake the town of Sinjar from ISIS. This is significant because the road (called Road 47) that runs through the Yezidi town is ISIS's supply route between their "capital" of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq that ISIS controls.
SINJAR, Iraq — Supported by U.S.-led airstrikes, Kurdish Iraqi troops on Thursday seized part of a highway that is used as a vital supply line for the Islamic State group, a key initial step in a major offensive to retake the strategic town of Sinjar from the militants.
In Syria, the Kurdish YPG and YPJ (the female brigades) have marched on a town of in northeastern Syria to cut off the same highway on the Syrian side of the border. This will support the march toward Raqqa after their capture of the most of the Syrian northern territories. This is the Kurdish group that recently received U.S. Special Forces trainers and support.
Capturing the Arab town from the so-called Islamic State would help the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition by blocking Highway 47, the primary route ISIS uses for funneling equipment and fighters between Raqqah and Mosul in Iraq. Furthermore, it would help the Kurds to capture the city of Sinjar on the other side of the Iraqi border.
Also in Syria, the Russian backed Syrian army has retaken, in coordination with Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, the airport near Aleppo that was held by ISIS since 2013. This is significant because its an attack on ISIS, not on the U.S. backed rebels. It's unknown if this was coordinated with the U.S. or coincidence, but it is a change in tactics for Russia and Assad's Syrian army.
Syrian soldiers fought their way into an air base in northern Syria on Tuesday (November 10) and freed military personnel inside, state television said, after a nearly two-year siege by Islamic State insurgents at the facility. A military source close to the government said the army was working to secure the Kweires air base in Aleppo Province, where soldiers and officers have been under attack since 2013.
In what may or may not prove to be related, fourteen ISIS related jihadists were just arrested in a sweeping EU operation to stop planned attacks against diplomats in the Middle East.

U.S. Special Operations Forces are forward deployed with the Kurdish fighters on the fronts in Iraq and Syria. The statements continue that they are not in combat, but they are there.

A post from 2014, Special Ops Deployed to Iraq: What Does It Mean?, describes the operations Special Ops performed with the Kurds in a similar 2003 operation called Operation Viking Hammer. In that mission, twelve Green Berets successfully led 7,000 Kurds to drive out a jihadist groups in the eastern mountains of Iraq.

The fighting at Sinjar in Iraq is to control Highway 47, to return the home city to the Yezedis packed in refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, and to ready ISIS held Mosul for eventual attack. in Northeastern Syria, it is to control Highway 47 from the Syrian side and to ready an advance on the ISIS held city of Raqqa, Without the Highway 47 supply line, ISIS will have to spend hours going through deserts to reach their holdings. This is while coalition forces advance from all sides.

In (what may be unrelated) in Europe, top ISIS jihadis have been arrested in a wide EU sweep.

It's too soon to be optimistic. ISIS has responded by attacking the Kurdish city of Kobani, beheading the innocent again in surrounding villages. Turkey has been a confusing factor (as usual) by helping the US with access to Turkish airbases while Turkey bombs Kurds... The fighting in Sinjar is slow going because ISIS has had years to boobytrap the entire city and, as their fighters get cornered, they respond with car bombs and worse. In Lebanon, an ISIS claimed bomb has killed dozens in a Beirut neighborhood linked to Hezbollah (which fought with Assad against ISIS to retake the airport near Aleppo).

This has all the earmarks of a turning point, coordinated attacks on the same strategic target across borders and by different entities. If it works, ISIS could be at a significant disadvantage when it comes time to take back Raqqa and Mosul, two cities that are their base of operations.

For further information: From the Kurdish news service, Rudaw, Live Blogging Sinjar.

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