ISIS on Saturday pushed back U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces, Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), trying to advance into their stronghold of Manbij for the first time since a major offensive to capture the city.
After clashes described the heaviest, ISIS succeeded in repelling SDF from the town of Zengel into the north of Manbij and controlling it.
The SDF, comprised mainly of YPG and other Kurdish militias, is backed by the air power of a U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS and aided by U.S. special forces, have been involved in the month-long Manbij operation aimed to seal off their last stretch of Syrian-Turkish frontier.
An SDF spokesman, however, denied reports they had pulled back from positions inside the city and said the campaign to uproot the ISIS terrorists would continue until they “liberated Manbij”.
“I stress that we have not retreated any step and all our positions are under our control,” Sharfan Darwish, spokesman for the SDF-allied Manbij Military Council, said in a statement.
The U.S.-backed forces have been bogged down in fighting in the northern and southern outskirts of the city after rapid advances that began with the capture of dozens of villages around the city until they surrounded it from all sides.
Kurdish militias or ISIS ?
The autonomous federation being planned by Syrian Kurdish parties and their allies is taking shape fast: a constitution should be finalised in three months, and possibly sooner, to be followed quickly by-elections, a Kurdish official said.
The political federation for northern Syria builds on three self-ruled regions carved out by the YPG since Syria descended into conflict in 2011 in an uprising to topple President Bashar al-Assad. It has already grown, expanding last year to include the town of Tel Abyad that was captured from Islamic State by the YPG in October.
In fact, Kurdish militias use US support to launch offensives against new areas under the term of fighting ISIS, while the force the Arab citizens to flee their homes, so the Kurdish militias can force control over new areas and add it to their contons.
They are accused of making ethnic crimes against Arab citizens in northern Syria.
Syrian Kurdish groups have made no secret of their aim to link up their two autonomous regions, or cantons, in northeastern Syria with one further west – Afrin. All that’s preventing them is the 80 km stretch of territory at the Turkish border held by ISIS near Manbij and further west by Turkey-backed rebel groups that are hostile to the YPG.