first published on March 23, 2017 by Will
A combat operation that legends are made of just occurred under the cover of darkness on March 21-22 as US Special Operations troops and elite Kurdish special forces parachuted deep into ISIS-held ground while other US-backed SDF troops made an amphibious assault that succeeded in retaking the Tabqa Dam from the Islamic State who were caught by surprise.
Some of the following information is unconfirmed but comes from our trusted sources and will give a more in depth look at what happened beyond the “official” CJTF-OIR statement.
The airborne troops jumped from at least a half dozen rotary-wing aircraft into at least two different drop zones onto a peninsula west of Raqqa near Abu Asi. There are even rumors of a high altitude jump taking place. The Syrian democratic Forces (SDF) have proven to be the top indigenous fighting force in the region, without a doubt. Yet, a very very small population within the ranks of the SDF is airborne qualified, and there were indeed Kurdish troops on the jump. This means that the Kurdish Counter Terror Group (CTG) from northern Iraq was definitely there leading the way. It’s also possible, and even likely, that the CTG’s Syrian counterpart, the Syrian Kurdish Anti-Terror Forces Command (HAT) were also in on the Airborne operation, considering the high echelon of their training. The key strategic ground now held on the western flank cuts off the main ISIS supply route flowing from Aleppo to Raqqa.
Meanwhile, a massive amphibious mission was underway. The SDF’s Kurdish YPG and Syrian Arab Coalition fighters led by Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) boarded Zodiac watercraft and whatever boats they could find, and made a more direct assault onto the dam itself, east of the airborne drop zone. The dam was being used as an ISIS headquarters, a prison for high value individuals, and a training camp. They were successful in taking the dam.
As the footholds across the Euphrates were confirmed, bridge boats were loaded with combat vehicles, supply trucks, and command and control vehicles, and they made their way for the beach heads to reinforce the initial shock troops who were carrying very little water, ammo, and supplies in order to stay highly mobile.
According to our reports, the fighting was intense, but somewhat brief, as Islamic State forces were caught of guard, most likely overconfident after the coalition’s recent failed attempt to take the dam. ISIS had also most likely pushed a good portion of their force to fortify the east of Raqqa after a recent night of successful raids by these same elite SDF troops and US commandos. Some ISIS fighters were killed, while most panicked and retreated into the actual town of Tabqa. Reports on twitter say that IS is now pushing troops to reinforce and entrench Tabqa for a fight.
While airborne and amphibious assaults were happening, ISIS was taking an absolute beating from the skies. AH-64 Apache helicopters rocked enemy fighting positions and scattering fighters. The newly arrived Marine artillery unit pounded IS targets all night. Fighter jets continuously stayed on station scorching through the sky in order to keep enemy heads down while the ground forces could set up shop.
US-SDF forces now have Raqqa blocked on three sides and hold some critical high ground. The coalition forces are wasting no time and have now initiated airstrikes and clearing operations to purge the tactically useless, but necessary, town of Tabqa and will also be conquering the strategic Tabqa airfield to the south.
Another important aspect of retaking this ground, the airfield, and getting Raqqa completely surrounded has just as much to do with our competitors as it does with the Islamic State. Russian and Syrian regime forces have been steadily making their way toward Raqqa from Homs and Palmyra to the south. They’re too late. This latest successful operation has all but blocked Syrian and Russian forces from meddling in the Raqqa operation and the rest that will follow in the region.
ISIS is on their last leg in Raqqa, and while they will undoubtedly fight wildly like a cornered, desperate animal, using seemingly unlimited SVBIEDs, booby trapping every house and street, and fighting from hidden tunnels below the city… they are dead men walking. It’s over, but they just don’t know it yet.
The following video shows SDF troops prepping for the amphibious assault as well as the follow-on bridging operations to reinforce and resupply the newly held ground.