On Thursday, U.S. Central Command announced that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish and Arab force, recaptured the key Syrian city of Tabqah, the Tabqah Dam, and a nearby airfield from the Islamic State. This victory is the most recent step in the U.S.’s efforts to weaken ISIS’s control of the territory.
The successful recapture of Tabqah, which is located roughly 30 miles west of Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold, denies the terrorists “a key coordination hub” that had been used by the group since 2013 to plan attacks on the West. Tabqah served as a base for planning such attacks after ISIS lost other territories in northern Syria.
According to the statement from U.S. Central Command, 70 ISIS terrorists surrendered to the U.S.-led international coalition Wednesday, and left heavy weapons behind them.
Col. John Dorrian, a Coalition spokesman, said the recapture of Tabqah is “yet another victory” for the Kurdish-led forces, which are the U.S.’s most effective partner on the ground fighting ISIS in Syria.
“The SDF’s success against ISIS demonstrates the power of working by, with and through local partner forces fighting ISIS, among their own people, in their own territory,” Dorrian said in the U.S. Central Command statement. “The SDF, fighting to liberate their own people and lands, have freed more than 8,000 square kilometers of Syria from ISIS since November.”
The battle for the recapture of Tabqah began nearly two months ago when American helicopters flew in hundreds of Syrian fighters into the city, along with a handful of American special operations forces.
Dorrian had previously said that once Tabqah was secured, the Syrian Kurdish-led forces will continue operations to “isolate and seize Raqqa.”
The capture of Tabqah follows the Trump administration’s announcement that it will supply the SDF with heavier weapons in preparation for a strikew on Raqqa. Talal Sillo, a commander with SDF, said no weapons have been delivered yet but noted the U.S.-led coalition said a delivery was expected from weapons already in Syria with the international coalition.
According to Dorrian, 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS terrorists remain in Raqqa. 30,000 residents have been displaced since the battle to recapture Tabqah began in March. Dorrian said their current priority is to protect the citizens that remain trapped in the city.