In yet another setback for the ISIS or the Islamic State as it is also known, a coalition of Syrian-Kurdish forces have recaptured the key city of Manbij in northern Syria. According to The New York Times, U.S. military drones captured footage of panicked ISIS fighters loading up their cars, buses and trucks with several people fleeing the city as the rebel soldiers marched into the city. The city of Manbij is the latest among several ISIS strongholds that have been wrested from them over the course of the past few months. The news of the liberation of Manbij comes just days after another key ISIS stronghold – the city of Surt in Libya – was liberated from the control of the ISIS. Surt was reportedly under ISIS occupation for more than a year. On Wednesday, Surt fell to pro-government militiamen who took back the city from ISIS control.
According to analysts, these new developments could hurt ISIS’s capabilities to carry out operations in the West.
The importance of the capture of Manbij lies in the fact that the city controlled a major crossing between Syria and Turkey. This crossing is the second of two crossings that the ISIS used to get their supplies in. With one major crossing gone, Kurdish forces are hopeful of causing a major roadblock for ISIS going forward. The second crossing, known as the al-Rai crossing, is also under attack by another group of anti-ISIS fighters. This crossing was allegedly used by new ISIS recruits to enter into Syria.
— Josie Ensor (@Josiensor) August 12, 2016
The exit of ISIS forces from Manbij was celebrated by local residents who were suffering at the hands of the brutal regime for the past few years. Several women were seen burning their veils, while men were seen shaving their beards. Under the ISIS’s strict interpretation of the Islamic Sharia law, women were required to wear a veil while going out in public. The men were required to grow beards.
— RT (@RT_com) August 14, 2016
The U.S. military had a major role in the operations at Manbij, which eventually resulted in the liberation of the city. According to reports, more than 300 American Special Forces advisers stationed near the city constantly monitored the battle from inside makeshift camps set up there. There were coordinated airstrikes too – more than 100 of them – which eventually contributed to the fall of Manbij.
— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) August 14, 2016
As for the city of Surt in Libya, the occupation by the ISIS was a cause for major concern because of the proximity of the city to Europe. The city was located near the northern coast of Libya, which happens to be a short distance from Europe. With the involvement of the ISIS in several terrorist attacks in several European countries, there was a growing concern about Surt being used as a launching pad for attacks against Europe.
Apart from the fall of Manbij and Surt, ISIS has faced other losses too of late. Recently, the head of the ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a man identified as Hafiz Saeed Khan, was killed in an airstrike on July 26 in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The most major recent defeat faced by the ISIS was in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was liberated from ISIS by Iraqi forces back in June.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 14, 2016
Commenting on the latest gains, Brett H. McGurk, President Obama’s envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State, said the following.
“The military side of this campaign is just coming together. The Iraqi armed forces have not lost a battle in over a year.”
As for residents of Manbij, a video shot by a local news channel showed people expressing their happiness after ISIS fighters fled.
Adnan al-Hussein, an activist originally from the area, described the scene.
“The city is Daesh-free now. A convoy of about 2,000 cars managed to leave Manbij and reach Jarabulus, of Daesh fighters, some of their families and civilians used as human shields to protect them from any attack.”
Farouk Hussein, a member of the Syrian democratic movement and of Manbij’s local government added the following.
“Come and see how women are ululating in the city. Joy is everywhere in Manbij.”
[Photo by ANHA/AP Images]