As each side converges on the Islamic State-held city of al-Bab, a military confrontation between Turkish-led rebels and pro-regime forces appear inescapable. In the meantime, tensions between Ankara and Moscow are rising yet again, risking pulling the United States and NATO further into the Syrian theater.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has claimed 729 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq, Syria and Libya since the beginning of the year. The figures for August indicate that 81 suicide attacks were carried out in these three countries. If the statistics are accurate, then the self-declared “caliphate” is carrying out suicide bombings at a historically high rate.
Jaysh al Tahrir, a group that has received several US TOW anti-tank missiles in the past, fought with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Aleppo. The SDF is the main anti-Islamic State fighting force for the United States and has received considerable support from the West.
Despite being forced largely underground in Iraq, Ansar al Islam continues to operate in Syria against regime and now Kurdish forces.
The Kurdish YPG (or People’s Defense Units) has released a summary of its operations for 2015. The YPG claims to have killed nearly 6,000 “enemy” fighters, most of whom likely belonged to the Islamic State, while losing just 680 of its own members in combat. The statistics provided by the YPG imply a kill ratio of nearly 9 to 1, which obviously seems high.
Kurdish forces have entered the Iraqi town of Sinjar, which was seized by the Islamic State in August 2014. The offensive in Sinjar is part of a broader operation intended to disrupt the Islamic State’s supply lines running from Iraq into Syria.
The simultaneous offensives follow recent Kurdish gains in Raqqah province, the proclaimed “capital” of the Islamic State.
Kurdish forces and fighters from the Free Syrian Army have seized a military base and a town just 30 miles north of the city of Raqqa, which is the seat of the Islamic State’s so-called “caliphate.” The losses are problematic for the Islamic State, which claims that its territorial rule is “remaining and expanding.”