After latest advances Tiger Forces are now just a few kilometers from the Euphrates — and from cutting off the US-backed SDF from further advances
Syria's elite Tiger Forces have nearly reached the Euphrates river to the south-east of Raqqa city.
Aside the Syrian army inching yet closer to Deir ez-Zor, this also means the US-augmented SDF forces on the right bank of the Euphrates are now just about penned in. Aside from a small gap along the river everywhere to their south and east is now the Syrian Arab Army.
The Syrian army made this advance sometime in recent days, but it was not immediately announced because the operation there is under a media blackout with official confirmations from the Syrian Ministry of Defense coming in with a delay of a few days.
This also allows for the possibility that the gap may have been closed by now, but that we don't know about it yet. What has been confirmed is that after advancing further east into the desert the Tigers moved north and took the village of Dakhleh which is located in the fertile river valley.
As the map shows the Syrian army has reached a dead arm of the Euphrates, but still has more ground to cover to reach the main body of the river.
Should the gap be closed the Kurdish-dominated SDF would be unable to take more of Syria to the right of Euphrates except if it clashed with the government army, which the Americans claim they do not want. Or if it crossed the river again further east — which is unlikely for as long as the battle for Raqqa city is still ongoing.
The SDF crossed the Euphrates in March in a US-orchestrated operation which Russia opposed. US Special Forces were the first to cross and secure landing sites, after which US Marine helicopters flew across hundreds of Kurdish fighters. Finally the SDF mainstay was ferried across Lake Assad in the next few days.
After crossing the Kurdish fighters took the town of al-Tabqa and its nationally important dam and power station. After that they continued advancing east taking numerous Arab-populated villages and small towns along the Euphrates' right bank.
A month ago the US shot down a Syrian Su-22 precisely in this area to the south of Tabqa. The US claimed it did so in "collective self-defense of partner forces" and called on everyone to "focus on fighting ISIS". The Russian reaction was to declare that henceforth any US or allied plane to the west of the Euphrates would be tracked as a target by their anti-air systems.
The Americans claim they now have a deal in place with the Russians, and Damascus dividing up areas along the Euphrates to be taken by the SDF and the Syrian army, but there has been no such confirmation by Moscow or Syria.
There are also claims that the Syrian army has by now advanced much further along the Euphrates, and that it is now just 40 kilometers from Deir ez-Zor. However there are as many denials, as there are confirmations of that feat.