Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Kurds Close the Gap in the North

The Kurds have, in a few days, closed the gap around Tall Abyad and pushed south of the river in the east towards Hasakah. In a series of Middle Eastern wars that have chugged along with agonizing sluggishness, this arena has moved shockingly quickly.

In Tall Abyad, fighting continues, but Kurdish forces made sure to surround Tall Abyad from the south, creating pockets to squeeze in on and eliminate the ISIS forces there, rather than letting them flee towards all-Raqqah, which should dampen the risk of a major counter-offensive.

The Syrians will be grateful for the closing of the Tall Abyad border crossing. This will mean a bit of long-term relief from ISIS so they can focus on killing each other instead.

In the east, the offensive to the east of Hasakah will make inaccessible both Route 1 and Route 47 that head to Mosul.

This would essentially cut off Mosul from ISIS reinforcements in Syria, where they're strongest. To get to Mosul, ISIS would have to run convoys through the desert and well away from major metropolitan areas, making them easy pickings for coalition jets. The Iraqis will be grateful.

In the medium-term, if the Kurds can hold off any ISIS counter-attacks (which seems likely--Syrian ISIS are bogged down in the west), they'll move west to take Manbij and close the gap between their central forces and their forces hanging out in the northwest of Syria, which would make the Kurds in control of all predominantly Kurdish territory in both Syria and Iraq.

The Kurds are likely hoping for at least an autonomous zone in Syria, like they have in Iraq--and depending on how long/damaging the Syrian civil war is, they might just be able to break off and form their own country. They're showing a capacity to defend and govern in Syria, where the Assad and rebel governments have not. The expansion of Kurdish territory in Iraq is likely to also expand Kurdish governance in those areas in the long-term, though the Iraqi government is not so broken-apart that they'll allow the Kurds to break away entirely.
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