US forces seek to take critical Tabqa dam before ISIS uses it as a weapon of terror

Raqqa, Syria – As reported previously by Lima Charlie News, the Tabqa Dam in the Syrian Euphrates Valley, and the Islamic Caliphate’s control over it, has been a major obstacle in the offensive against and defeat of the Islamic State. ISIS has repeatedly threatened to destroy the dam, flooding the region, should it be attacked. Such an act would result in the death of tens of thousands, and change the face of the land for the foreseeable future.

The Tabqa Dam, held by ISIS since 2013, is also structurally failing. ISIS has kept the dam’s maintenance engineers and their families hostage inside the dam compound, not just to oversee the structure, but as human shields. The city of al Raqqa, the self proclaimed capital of the Islamic Caliphate, is located just 40 kilometers east of the dam.

Today, prioritizing the taking of the dam and its namesake town before it can be used as a weapon of terror, US Special Operations forces, along with allied Kurdish and Arab fighters, began spearheading a wide advance towards the dam. So far the forces have secured the villages of Abu Hurayrah, al Mushayirafah, al-Krain, and Al Jameen, southwest of Tabqa.

US Special Operations forces have established additional checkpoints along the Aleppo-Raqqa main routes, and have begun to isolate the area to ensure that they can control enemy numbers inside the large active conflict perimeter. The main Raqqa road, which leads to Aleppo, has been severed.

As part of this offensive, the US has deployed a large number of troop carrying helicopters and close air support capabilities. The helicopters have so far dropped over 500 allied fighters onto enemy strongholds, and deployed US Special Operations forces behind or near enemy lines. The advancement towards the dam is happening at a rapid tempo, but appears to have not met any severe resistance as of yet.

As part of the advance, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) units that are not presently involved in the offensive have been regrouping. In preparation for the critical battle for the dam, the units have been advancing from Javer towards the western side of Tabqa under the shield of US jet fighters and close air support neutralizing any ISIS positions before them. The Kurdish leadership has not commented on the numbers, but reports from the ground speak of approximately 3,000 SDF fighters advancing towards Tabqa from the Javer lines.

Image Tabqa Dam

Fliers are being air dropped over the Tabqa and Raqqa area warning the civilian population to stay indoors, and to not resist ISIS forces right now, and that the coalition is coming soon to liberate them. “Stay alive above all else. Syria needs you,” one flier reportedly said. The slaughter of civilians inside al Raqqa is well known.

The Pentagon confirmed in an early morning press conference that the United States Marine Corps artillery units that have been deployed to the general area are currently engaged in providing supportive artillery to the advancing US Special Operations Forces and local forces.

Follow @JohnSjoholmLC and @LimaCharlieMENA for the latest developments.

John Sjoholm, Middle East Bureau Chief, Lima Charlie News

John Sjoholm is Lima Charlie’s Middle East Bureau Chief, and founder of the consulting organization Erudite Group. He is a seasoned Middle East connoisseur, with a past in the Swedish Army’s Special Forces branch and the Security Contracting industry. He studied religion and languages in Sana’a, Yemen, and Cairo, Egypt. He lived and operated extensively in the Middle East between 2005-2012 as part of regional stabilizing projects, and currently resides in Jordan. Follow John on Twitter @JohnSjoholmLC

Lima Charlie provides global news, insight & analysis by military veterans and service members Worldwide.

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