Kurdish-Arab SDF defeat IS in Raqqa, Turkey sets up positions in Idlib

  • Dominika Jandová
  • 19.10.2017 07:34

On Tuesday 17 October, the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by the United States announced victory in the struggle over the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last main Islamic state (IS) stronghold in Syria. The operation lasted for four months and other actions to clear the city of sleeper cells, landmines and other explosives will now take place.

The Islamic State has lost 87 % of the territory it previously controlled and only around 6,500 fighters still remain from the original tens of thousands. Another IS-dominated area in Syria is the Deir al-Zour province where Russia and Syrian regime forces are fast advancing. However, experts warn that the IS is still not completely defeated and besides Syria, fighters might continue to operate in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen or the Philippines. Up to 3,200 people were killed during the offensive, including over 1,000 civilians, mostly in coalition raids. However, the damaged city of Raqqa now faces uncertain political future. The US and SDF have committed to hand the city over to the Civil Council formed of Arabs and Kurds but further development may be complicated by various ethnic or geopolitical factors, as well as problems related to reconstruction, maintaining security and other services. The defeat of the IS in Raqqa also brings up new questions about the future role of the United States in Syria and their support of the Kurds, especially after the events in Iraq following the Kurdish referendum.

On Thursday 12 October, the Turkish army began setting up observation posts in the northwestern Idlib province, where the radical Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group is operating, to monitor the de-escalation zone mediated by Russia. Possible advances against Kurdish militias might also be a secondary reason. Damascus, however, is calling for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish forces from this province.

About author: Dominika Jandová

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