Hard-pressed Turkish-backed rebels emerge one of the main beneficiaries of simultaneous Syrian-Russian and Kurdish-American offensives vs ISIS
Two and a half offensives are underway against ISIS in Syria.
Firstly the Kurds propped up by some Arab fighters have crossed the Euphrates in northern Syria and are advancing westwards on the city of Manbij -- which is the second biggest city after the 'capital' of Raqqa that ISIS holds in Syria.
Backed by US air support and special forces the Kurds (albeit Americans are pretending that SDF's Arab component is leading the fight) have made impressive gains in hard battles and are close to encircling and storming Manbij -- a major ISIS outpost in the north.
The battle is important because without Manbij ISIS can not hold onto the north which means its link via the outside world via Turkey is doomed.
(However, the Kurds seem to be staying clear of the border crossing at Jarabulus and refusing to come closer than 15 kilometres to the Turkish border -- consequence of some kind of American-brokered deal or 'respect' for Turkish artillery?)
Syrian government forces backed by Russian aircraft are fighting a fight that could be even more strategically significant. They are advancing eastward across desert into the heart of ISIS-held territory, towards the strategically important town of Tabqa and the artificial Lake Assad captured by the dam at that town.
By some reports Syrian loyalist forces have advanced some 40 kilometres from their initial positions and are now just 24 kilometres from the lake.
If the Syrians reach Lake Assad ISIS would be effectively cut in two with no way for the group with its northern territories in Aleppo province cut off from the rest. (Technically they could still move across the actual waters of Lake Assad but the Russian air force would surely make certain that didn't actually occur.)
The Syrian-Russian offensive is remarkable in that an ISIS counter-attack briefly cut its supply lines but the confidence of the Syrian troops on the ground was such they just kept on advancing regardless.
The Syrian and the Kurdish offensives are well supported by Russians and Americans respectively and are threatening absolutely key ISIS position. And the fact they're taking place simultanously is placing ISIS under almost unbearable strain.
The group has responded by abandoning its most north-western positions in Aleppo where it had previously cornered Turkish-backed Syrian rebels of the Azaz pocket and had them on their last legs. Following the massive, unforced withdrawal the rebels are moving into areas ISIS abandoned and taking them over for themselves.
Thus ISIS is losing territory in three different corners of Syria, against the Kurdish-dominated SDF, against the Syrian Arab Army and loyalist militias, and also against Turkish-backed rebels nominally of the FSA, but for now only the former two are consequences of actual fighting in the sector:
Following up on the capture of 4 villages this morning, rebel forces in northern Aleppo have seized an additional 6 villages from ISIS during the afternoon; namely Yahmul, Jarez, Kafrah, Kafr Ghan, Sawran, Tilalyan, and Ghazal.
Further rebel advances are ongoing as we speak.
The villages were abandoned by the Islamic State as ISIS commanders are seemingly concerned about being cut off in the Aleppo governorate due to two simultaneous offensives around Manbij and in western Raqqa.
Despite the loss of (at least) ten villages today, little to no casualties were inflicted upon the Islamic State amid their retreat.
— Military Advisor (@miladvisor)June 8, 2016