The long awaited push against the defacto capital of the Islamic State has finally begun. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a multi-ethnic coalition led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPS) but include local Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen, and Circassian militias, have finally begun a 12,000 man offensive to liberate the city of Raqqa from the ultraconservative Wahhabi terrorist group known as Daesh (or IS/ISIS/ISIL).
With United States Special Forces guiding from the ground and the international coalition (Coalition Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve) watching from the skies, these brave men and women (the Kurdish YPG are renowned for the bravery and ferocity of their all-female units) have only hours ago liberated the villages of Fatisah and al-Hadirya and have taken eight kilometers of territory.
SDF’s Raqqa Offensive starts from 3 fronts, aiming to control all northern Raqqa countryside and besiege the city. pic.twitter.com/YHvfRJvpEd
— Unite Kurdistan (@UniteKurdistan) May 24, 2016
The going will be slow, unfortunately. Daesh’s obsessive need to booby-trap and landmine everything you could possibly hide an improvised explosive device (IED) in – including copies of the Qu’ran – was made clear when the Iraqi city of Ramadi was liberated. Three months later, Iraqi security forces and American contractors are still de-mining and de-trapping the city, where tens of thousands of IEDs were hidden in anticipation of the liberators.
The YPG and the SDF have been the most effective combatants in the war against Daesh this whole time, and they are truly allies worthy of the United States. Long disenfranchised and repressed by the murderous Assad regime, the Kurdish cantons have declared their own federal autonomous region (Rojava) in northern Syria, governed under the principles of poly-ethnicity, gender equality, democratic confederalism and environment sustainability. Rojava is the birthplace of the SDF, which looks beyond the war to implementing a federalist democratic system across all of Syria once the fighting ends.
It is far beyond time we stopped pandering to the demands of an increasingly fascist dictatorship in Turkey and began giving our full, unbridled support to one of the only groups who strive to embody the values of freedom, tolerance, and democracy that we ostensibly started the war on terror to promote in the first place. The United States can back the multi-ethnic SDF and rest assured that upon liberation, there will be no sectarian reprisal killings as we have seen from Shia militias in Ramadi or the recent massacre of Alawites by Ahrar-al Sham in Syria’s al-Zahraa.
And, as usual, there is nothing to be heard of from the American right-wing, who are apparently such enormous hypocrites that they can’t even give grudging support for when the President does something they’ve been piteously moaning about for the past sixteen months. Perhaps they’re too distracted by the insurgency of Donald Trump in their own ranks, watching in horror as their nominee casually discards a platform cultivated over the past eight years like a child tossing aside a book whose words are far too complex for his understanding.
While the war is far from over, this is an extremely important operation that could drastically shift the course of the conflict – and the future of Syria – for years. We wish our brave Special Forces men and the valiant warriors of the SDF good luck – and good hunting.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.