Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Operation Featherweight: Month 40, Week 1, Day 1.

On September 11th 2001 (11/9/01) the Sunni Islamist group Al Qaeda conducted multiple, coordinated terror attacks against the United States of America.

Hijacked aircraft were flow into both of the main towers at the World Trade Centre in New York City, New York completely destroying the complex. A third aircraft was flown into the Pentagon building in Virginia badly damaging the headquarters of the US military.

A fourth aircraft was brought down by its passengers in a field in Pennsylvania. It is believed that this plane was intended to crash into the US Capitol in Washington D.C.

This was the worst terror attack in US history. With 2,977 people killed and more than 6,000 injured I believe it remains the worst terror attack committed anywhere in the World ever.

The aircraft were hijacked by 15 citizens of Saudi Arabia, 2 citizens of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 2 citizens of Egypt and Lebanon respectively.

So in 2003 America invaded Iraq.

By invading Iraq the US created the space for Al Qaeda to enter the country. In October 2004 the Al Qaeda affiliate "Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn/Organisation for Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia" was created by Abu Musab al-Zarqwi. This was commonly know by the Americans as; "Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)."

In June 2006 Abu Musab al-Zarqwi was killed by US forces. He was replaced as leader of AQI by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who renamed the group; "Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)."

Despite al-Baghdadi's delusions of grandeur ISI were largely suppressed. Both by US forces and the "Awakenings" or "Sahwah" movement. This saw the US and the Iraqi government pay Sunni Arab tribes in particularly Anbar Province to fight against ISI and other Sunni Islamist groups.

In 2011 then US President Barack Obama declared that the war in Iraq had been won. He started withdrawing US troops from Iraq and brought an end to the Awakenings movement.

This allowed ISI to flourish once again in Iraq. It also allowed them to expand to north-eastern Syria where they changed their name again to; "al-Dawlah al-Islamiyyah fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)."

Turkey under President/Prime Minister/Emperor Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with the US under Obama then started supporting ISIL.The objective of this support was for ISIL to overthrow the secular government of Syria replacing it with a Sunni Islamist government that is the puppet of Erdogan. 

That would be the first step in realising Erdogan's dream of re-establishing the Ottoman Empire across the entire Middle-East, North Africa (MENA). 

At the same time Erdogan was establishing a Sunni Islamist puppet regime in Egypt. The Ottoman Empire really came into being after it defeated the Egyptian based Mamluk Empire in a battle at the Syrian town of Dabiq in 1516.

Quite why former President Obama decided to support ISIL to allow Erdogan to establish a Middle-Eastern Empire remains a complete mystery to me.

Despite several years of support by Erdogan and Obama by the autumn of 2013 ISIL were in extremely bad shape in Syria. The Syrian forces had restricted them to an area around the Euphrates River basin in north-eastern Syria and the group was on the brink of defeat.

So in December 2013 ISIL returned to Iraq taking over the predominately Sunni south-western Anbar Province. In August 2014 ISIL overran northern Iraq's Nineveh Province. This invasion included committing a genocide of Iraqis who follow the Yezidi religion and taking control of the city of Mosul.

Refreshed by weapons, money and recruits stolen from Iraq the battle in Syria once again swung back in ISIL's favour. They were able to overrun almost the entire the north-east of the country and its centre coming close to the capital Damascus.

ISIL though hit a roadblock in September 2014 when they tried to overrun the city of Kobane. This sits on Syria's northern border with Turkey around 30km (20 miles) east of where the Euphrates River enters Syria. 

A predominately Kurdish city Kobane was defended by the People's Protection Units (YPG). Over the course of a gruelling six month battle the YPG not only stopped ISIL seizing Kobane they drove them back as far as the town of Ayn Issa around 90km (55 miles) to the south-east.

Having defeated ISIL at Kobane the YPG then set about forming the Syrian Democrat Forces (SDF/QSD) coalition. Alongside the YPG the SDF is made up of Christian, Turkmen and Arab forces. The Arab element which makes up around 50% of the coalition is made up of both fragments of the long defunct Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Arab tribes indigenous to northern Syria.

The formation of the SDF cut off ISIL's access to Syria's border with Turkey along as roughly 160km (95 mile) wide area from the Euphrates River in the west to Syria's border with Iraq to the east. For operational reasons this constantly growing area which cuts across several of Syria's provinces has been designated; "Shangri-La."

The SDF also control another area designated; "Afrin Canton" in the north-west of Syria. In August 2016 the SDF were prevented from linking Afrin Canton and Shangri-La by an illegal invasion of northern Syria by regular Turkish forces.

Those Turkish troops continue to occupy a roughly 100km (60 mile) wide area between the Euphrates to the east and Azaz/Kilis to the west. This area has been designated; "Garvaghy Road." The purpose of the invasion and occupation was to keep open supply lines between ISIL and Turkey.

In the meantime ISIL's genocide of the Yezidis in northern Iraq finally shamed the international community to take action. Under Chapter 7 of the United Nations (UN) Charter Resolution 2170 (2014) was issued and a global military coalition - Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR) was formed under American leadership.

Due to former President Obama's lingering support for ISIL the progress of CJTFOIR was initially extremely slow. For example Obama forbade CJTFOIR for supporting the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in an operation to liberate the city of Tikrit  in the spring of 2015.

However by the summer of 2016 the ISF with the support of CJTFOIR had been able to liberate the city of Fallujah. This marked the effective liberation of all of Anbar Province from ISIL. With the exception of some small border areas where the Euphrates River enters Iraq from Syria.

On October 17th 2016 (17/10/16) an operation was launched to liberate Mosul. Since the invasion in the summer of 2014 this had functioned as ISIL's de facto capital within Iraq.

In launching this operation former President Obama's primary objective was the November 2016 US Presidential Election. He wanted lots of positive headlines to propel his designated successor to victory. 

Obama also wanted to preserve ISIL as much as possible so Hillary Clinton could go on using them to try and overthrow Syria's secular government.

Therefore the key part of Obama's plan for the battle of Mosul was to leave the entire western side of the city undefended. This was to allow ISIL to flee back up the the Euphrates River to Raqqa - their de facto capital in Syria - while only mounting a symbolic defence of Mosul.

It was then pointed out to Obama by other members of CJTFOIR that if ISIL were free to flee to Raqqa they were also free to flee from Raqqa up the Garvaghy Road to Turkey. From Turkey they would be free to travel to wherever they liked in the World in order to do Erdogan's evil bidding.

So at the start of November 2016 Obama sort panicked under pressure and blurted out that with the support of CJTFOIR the SDF would liberate Raqqa.

The problem was that when Obama made this announcement the SDF were located extremely far away from Raqqa. Their most advanced position was at Ayn Issa which is around 70km (40 miles) north of Raqqa.

Therefore the SDF's first task of the operation codenamed; "Wrath of Euphrates" was to actually advance towards Raqqa. This was done in three phases;

The first phase begun on November 6th (6/11/16) saw the SDF advance south from Ayn Issa to Raqqa. This was completed on November 25th (25/11/16) with the SDF taking up positions roughly 25km (15 miles) north of Raqqa.

The second phase of the operation was launched on December 10th 2016 (10/12/16). 

It's objective was to see the SDF sweep down the banks of the Euphrates from the town of Sarrin to the Tabqa Dam. Sarrin is located roughly 70km (40 miles) north-west of Ayn Issa on the banks of the Euphrates while the Tabqa Dam is located around 40km (25 miles) west of Raqqa.

This second phase was completed on January 20th 2017 (20/1/17). It saw the SDF take up positions at Jabour Castle at Lake Assad some 10km (6 miles) west of the Tabqa Dam.

The third phase was launched on February 4th (4/2/17). It's objective was to secure the territory north-west of Raqqa cutting the city off from Deir-ez-Zour - the other major city on the Euphrates around 120km (70 miles) south-east of Raqqa.


This third phase was completed on March 19th (19/3/17) with the SDF taking up positions around al-Karamah which is roughly 30km (20 miles) south-east of Raqqa.

On March 22nd (22/3/17) the SDF launched an operation to liberate both the town of Tabqa and the Tabqa Dam. This was completed on May 11th (11/5/17).

While the SDF were advancing towards Raqqa ISIL seemed to be operating under the impression they would get the same deal from CJTFOIR they got in Mosul. 

That is to say they would be allowed to largely flee Raqqa to establish a new de facto capital in the town of Mayadin. This sits on the Euphrates River roughly 175km (105 miles) south-east of Raqqa.

As it turns out ISIL didn't even get the deal Obama promised them in Mosul. 

On October 29th 2016 (29/10/16) the Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF) militia element of the ISF broke from Obama's plan and established a front to the west of Mosul. By November 16th 2016 (16/11/17) this had effectively sealed Mosul off from Syria.

The November 2016 US Presidential Election was won not by Obama's designated successor Hillary Clinton but by Donald Trump. 

Upon taking up office in January 2017 President Trump changed CJTFOIR's rules of engagement allowing them to more aggressively strike ISIL. Particularly their convoys travelling from Raqqa to Mayadin.

Within the UK this change has very much been in the news recently. 

Last Thursday (12/10/17) it was made public that the British female ISIL fighter Sally Jones had been killed in CJTFOIR airstrike back in June 2017. Jones is sometimes also known as; "Umm Hussain al-Britani," "The White Widow" or "Lindsay Lohan" The strike had taken place as she and other ISIL fighters were travelling from Raqqa to Mayadin.

As a result of both the actions of the PMF and CJTFOIR's new rules of engagement ISIL's plans to establish a new de facto capital in Mayadin seem to have failed. 

However their abandonment of the city as their capital and the largescale withdrawal from Raqqa did significantly undermine their ability to defend the city.

On June 6th (6/6/17) the SDF operation to liberate Raqqa itself began.

ISIL's plan for the defence of Raqqa appears to have been built around establishing a sort of main headquarters within the central areas of the city. Roughly in the area between the an-Nadah district to the west and the Old City district to the east.

This believed main headquarters actually stretches across several districts including al-Baytra, Hanah, Amin and what is known as the Security Box. It is perhaps better defined by landmarks such as Harun al-Rashid Gardens, April 7th Park, the National Hospital and the Municipal Football Stadium.

ISIL seemed to assume that the SDF would attack from the north. As a result they established the bulk of their defences to the north of the city. Roughly between the old Syrian Army - Division 17 - base and the area of their main headquarters.

Instead what the SDF actually did was attack in three directions; The North, The West and the East. At the same time the SDF swept west-to-east from Tabqa along the southern bank of the Euphrates in order to isolate Raqqa from the main body of Syria.

The northern axis' first task was to liberate the Division 17 base. They completed that task on or around August 1st (1/8/17) before entering into a holding pattern.

The SDF's western axis entered the Raqqa via the Jazra suburb. By July 3rd (3/7/17) it had succeeded in completely liberating the Sabahiya, Romaniyah, al-Qadisiyyah and al-Hattin districts and parts of the an-Nadah and al-Baryd districts. These all sit on the western outskirts of Raqqa.

The SDF's eastern axis began by entering the Mashlab district at the most south-easterly tip of Raqqa on June 6th (6/6/17). By June 17th (17/6/17) it had succeeded in liberating the Mashlab, al-Sinaa and Bitani districts. These all sit on the eastern outskirts of Raqqa.

On July 2nd (2/7/17) the eastern axis entered the Hisham Abdulmalik district at the very south of Raqqa on the banks of the Euphrates.

On July 17th (17/7/17) the western axis entered the Shahada district. This also sits at the very south of Raqqa directly adjacent to the Hisham Abdulmalik district.

On August 10th (10/8/17) the SDF were able to declare both the Hisham Abdulmalik and Shahada districts fully liberated. This linked the eastern and western axis liberating the south of Raqqa from ISIL.

The SDF then set about liberating the districts which sit between the eastern and western outskirts and the area of ISIL's believed main headquarters.


On September 2nd (2/9/17) the SDF's eastern axis succeeded in fully liberating the Old City district. This sits north of the Hisham Abdulmalik district, west of the al-Sinaa district and one city block east of the Harun al-Rashid Gardens.

On September 8th (8/9/17) the SDF's western axis liberated the Darayeh district. This sits directly north of the Shahada district and directly west of the al-Moroor district.

On September 10th (10/9/17) the western axis liberated the al-Moroor district itself. This also sits directly north of the Shahada district, directly west of the Security Box.

In doing this the SDF liberated a number of the key buildings that make up ISIL's believed headquarters.

On August 28th (28/8/17) the SDF's western axis liberated the Children's Hospital Complex. This is located on the junction between Shahada district, al-Moroor district and the Security Box. It had long been used by ISIL as a military base and a command & control centre.

On September 6th (6/9/17) the SDF's western axis liberated the Court House and Criminal Security complex. This sits north of where al-Moroor district meets an-Nadah district and is directly across the road from the National Hospital Complex.

On September 12th (12/9/17) the SDF's eastern axis liberated the Governate Building. This sits directly north of the Hisham Abdulmalik district roughly 200 metres/yards or one city block south of Harun al-Rashid Gardens. 


On September 28th (28/9/17) ISIL finally realised that their central headquarters were being overrun from the south, west and east. This prompted them to withdraw their forces from the north of the city in an attempt to defend the central area.

This triggered a mass collapse in ISIL defences. In quick succession they lost many of the key landmarks in their central headquarters and several neighbourhoods in the north-east of the city. At the same time the SDF's northern axis ended their holding pattern and began advancing south.

These rapid gains meant that by October 3rd (3/10/17) ISIL were limited to a small area in the north of the city. This area was a rough "V" shape with the Naem Roundabout junction at its tip spanning out north to include parts of al-Wahdah, Hurriyah and Thawrah districts.

ISIL did though continue to hold on to two of the key landmarks within its central headquarters. The National Hospital Complex and the Municipal Football Stadium.

ISIL had been able to hold on to these locations by kidnapping potentially thousands of civilians from the surrounding area and holding them a human shields. ISIL then rigged both locations with explosives and were using heavy weapons to defend them from the SDF.

This made it extremely difficult for the SDF to liberate those locations. From a military perspective there was only two outcomes I could see;

Firstly CJTFOIR bombs both the locations. This would completely destroy the buildings, kill all the ISIL fighters and kill all the hostages.

Secondly the SDF try to mount a raid on the locations. This would prompt ISIL to blow up the buildings like the blew up the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul. That would completely destroy the buildings, kill all the ISIL fighters, kill all the civilians and kill all the members of the SDF taking part in the raid.

So instead the SDF set about negotiating the surrender of the ISIL fighters in the locations and the release of all the hostages. That negotiation was successfully completed on Sunday (15/10/17) with the surrender of 350 ISIL fighters and the release of over 1,300 civilians.

Throughout the naturally very secretive negotiations there were lots of rumours about whether the agreement would apply only to local, Syrian ISIL fighters or all ISIL fighters including foreigners. There also lots of rumours about whether the surrendering fighters would go to Deir-ez-Zour, Ayn Issa or Tabqa and whether they would be set free or not.

As it turns out the surrender only applied to Syrian ISIL fighters who are members of local Arab tribes. At least 270 of the 350 have been transferred to Tabqa where they are in prison awaiting trial.

Sunday's (15/10/17) mass surrender meant that there were only a handful of foreign ISIL fighters remaining in Raqqa to defend the V area and the National Hospital and Municipal Stadium Complexes.

Over the course of Monday (16/10/17) the SDF were able to oust those remaining fighters from that V area including the Naem Roundabout junction. On Tuesday (17/10/17) they took control of both the National Hospital and Municipal Stadium complexes. 

Obviously the SDF still have mopping up operations to complete to make sure there are no ISIL fighters left hiding amid the ruins.

However those gains mean that the SDF were able to declare that after 133 days of battle Raqqa was fully liberated from ISIL on October 17th 2017 (17/10/17). 

Exactly a year to the day after the operation to liberate Mosul - ISIL's de factor capital in Iraq - began.

Meanwhile the Syrians with the support of Russia have been conducting their own operation to liberate the southern banks of the Euphrates from ISIL. 

On Saturday (14/10/17) they were able to liberate Mayadin.

With the exception of an isolated area in Hama Province this leaves ISIL scattered in a small area in the Euphrates River basin between the Khobar River and the Syria/Iraq border.

16:45 on 18/10/17 (UK date).















Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Operation Featherweight: Month 39, Week 5, Day 2.

In the summer of 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran northern Iraq.

The eastern part of northern Iraq is dominated by the Iraqi Kurdish Region. Populated primarily by members of the Kurdish ethnic group this has its own Parliament and its own government. It also has its own security force known as the Peshmerga.

Immediately following the arrival of ISIL the Peshmerga were dispatched to the city of Kirkuk. This sits around 95km (60 miles) south of Erbil - the capital of the Iraqi Kurdish Region - and around 50km (30 miles) outside of the Kurdish Region.

In November 2015 the Peshmerga reached the now infamous town of Sinjar/Shingal. When ISIL first swept into this town it was scene to the genocide of Kurdish residents of the town who follow the Yezidi faith which triggered the international fight against ISIL. It is located around 250km (150 miles) west of Erbil and around 130km (80 miles) outside of the Iraqi Kurdish Region.

In October 2017 an operation was launched to liberate the city of Mosul from ISIL. This is located around 200km (120 miles) west of Erbil and around 45km (25 miles) outside of the Iraqi Kurdish Region.

The operation to liberate Mosul was primarily carried out by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). However the Peshmerga did perform a supporting role securing the outskirts to the city.

To the north this saw the Peshmerga take up positions at the town Tal Kayf. This sits 8km (5 miles) north of Mosul and around 50km (30 miles) outside of the Iraqi Kurdish Region.

To the east the Peshmerga took up positions at the twin towns of Bashiqa & Barzani. These sit around 12km (7 miles) east of Mosul and around 30km (15 miles) outside of the Iraqi Kurdish Region.

To the south the Peshmerga took up positions at the town of Makhmur. This sits around 70km (40 miles) south of Mosul and around 50km (30 miles) outside of the Iraqi Kurdish Region.

On July 9th 2017 (9/6/17) Mosul was finally liberated from ISIL.

The ISF's next task was to liberate an area known as the; "Hawija Triangle." Centred around the town of Hawija this sits around 100km (60 miles) south of Erbil. It's three corners are made up of Tikrit, Baiji and Kirkuk.

By October 5th (5/10/17) the Hawija Triangle was all but liberated. The remaining task was for the ISF to take control of the Kirkuk oilfields. This would involve the Peshmerga returning positions in and around Kirkuk - specifically the K1 Base complex - to the ISF.

The problem though has been President of the Iraqi Kurdish Region Masoud Barzani. Along with his son Nechirvan Barzani whom he's appointed Prime Minister Masoud Barzani has gotten this mad idea into his head.

The Barzanis think that if they can seize Kirkuk's oil fields he can export that oil through a pipeline to Turkey. They can then use the proceeds from this stolen oil to declare the Iraqi Kurdish Region to be an independent nation state. One which the Barzani family runs as a dynasty.

While the ISF have spent the last year fighting ISIL the Barzanis have spent their time trying to put this pipedream into reality. To this end they held a vote on September 25th (25/9/17). By both international and domestic Iraqi and Kurdish Region law this vote fell far short of the independence referendum the Barzanis proclaim it to be.

The Barzanis' pipedream though has led to them refusing to negotiate the transfer of positions outside of the Iraqi Kurdish Region from the Peshmerga back to the ISF.

So on Friday (13/10/17) the Iraqi government government was forced to give the Peshmerga an ultimatum. They had until 00:00 (02:00 local) on Sunday (15/10/17) to vacate their positions at Kirkuk's oil fields and hand them back to the ISF.

The Barzanis though refused and ordered the Peshmerga to fight the ISF for control of the oil fields.

The October 15th (15/10/17) deadline came and went. The Iraqi government's response was to wait a further 24 hours to give the Barzanis time to consider their position and negotiate.

The Barzanis refused so at 00:00 (02:00 local) on Monday (16/10/17) the ISF moved in to secure Kirkuk's oil fields.

Fortunately the majority of the Peshmerga refused the Barzanis illegal order to fight the ISF and instead peacefully handed over their positions. The exception seems to have been a rogue Peshmerga unit led by Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa. They attempted to fight the ISF but were either killed or captured by their fellow Peshmerga.

As a result the ISF were able to secure the K1 Base complex which controls access to Kirkuk's oil fields on Monday (16/10/17) afternoon. By the evening the ISF were able to take control of Kirkuk itself as local residents rejected the Barzanis calls for them to come out and fight the ISF.

This morning the Peshmerga peacefully handed over their positions at Sinjar/Shingal to the ISF. They also peacefully handed over their positions at Bashiqa & Barzani.

It is expected that they will equally peacefully return their positions around Makhmur to the ISF either tonight or tomorrow.

17:05 on 17/10/17 (UK date).



Monday, 16 October 2017

Operation Featherweight: Month 39, Week 5, Day 1.

In the summer of 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran northern Iraq.

The eastern part of northern Iraq is dominated by the Iraqi Kurdish Region. This semi-autonomous region has it's own Parliament and its own government - the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

The KRG is headed by regional President Masoud Barzani. Like all the best dictators President Barzani has appointed his son - Nechirvan Barzani - to act as the region's Prime Minister.

The Iraqi Kurdish Region also has its own security force known as the Peshmerga.

Following ISIL's arrival President Barzani dispatched the Peshmerga to the city of Kirkuk. This sits around 120km (70 miles) south of Erbil - the capital of the Iraqi Kurdish Region - and around 50km (30 miles) outside of the Kurdish Region.

Having seized Kirkuk the Barzani family became fixated on a crazy plan.

If they could also seize the oilfields around Kirkuk they could use a pipeline into Turkey to sell the stolen oil. This would provide them with the funds to declare Iraq's Kurdish Region to be an independent nation. With the Barzani family ruling as a dynasty of course.

This plan is deeply flawed for two main reasons;

The first is that international law forbids a nation state being created within the borders of an existing nation state without the permission of that existing state.

Therefore the Barzanis could declare Iraq's Kurdish Region to be an independent nation in much the same way I could declare my house to be an independent nation.

However without the consent of Iraq no member of the United Nations could recognise the Iraqi Kurdish Region as a nation state. Nor could they maintain diplomatic contact with let alone support a Kurdish Region that the Barzani's claim is an independent nation.

The second problem is Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The President/Prime Minister/Emperor of Iraq's neighbour Turkey. Barzani's plan to fund the Kurdish Region as an independent nation by selling oil through Turkey is entirely dependent on Erdogan.

Erdogan is a neo-Ottoman. That means he wishes to reestablish Turkey as the Ottoman Empire. At its peak this stretched across the entire Middle-East and parts of Europe and North Africa.

Within the Ottoman Empire there was a Kurdish Region. This was populated by people who identified as Kurdish and spoke the Kurdish language.

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the First World War the allied powers were going to create the Ottoman Kurdish Region as the independent nation state of Kurdistan. However the discovery of oil in places like Kirkuk changed their minds. This was known as the Sykes-Picot agreement.

ISIL were created by Erdogan with the support of the US to bring an end to the Sykes-Picot agreement and re-establish first the Ottoman Kurdish Region. Therefore you would have to be insane to think that Erdogan would support the Barzanis to establish Iraq's Kurdish Region as a nation state.

I have no doubt that Erdogan would accept Kirkuk's oil via a Barzani run pipeline. What he will certainly not do though is hand the revenues from those oil sales back to Iraq's Kurds.

Despite the obvious flaws with their plan being repeatedly pointed out to them and years of pleading by the international community for them to see sense the Barzanis have kept pushing away with their pipedream.

This has caused no end of problems both for the fight against ISIL and for the region's Kurds.

In the spring of 2015 the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) liberated the cities of Tikrit and Baiji from ISIL. These sit 120km (70 miles) and 105km (60 miles) south-west of Kirkuk respectively.

Having liberated Tikrit and Baiji the logical next step would be for the ISF to liberate the area between those cities and Kirkuk. Centred around the town of Hawija this has become known as the; "Hawija Triangle."

However the Barzanis would not allow the ISF to enter Kirkuk in order to conduct the operation. So since then ISIL have been protected by the Barzanis within the Hawija Triangle. They've used the area to conduct numerous attacks against civilians within Kirkuk and beyond.

In December 2015 Erdogan was desperate to send regular Turkish forces into Syria to fight the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF/QSD) on behalf of ISIL. To test the diplomatic waters for this Erdogan first sent a few thousand Turkish troops into Iraq's Kurdish Region where they set up a base at Bashiqa - close to the city of Mosul.

Erdogan's deployment of troops to Bashiqa which at the time was on the ISIL side of the Mosul frontline was met with near universal condemnation leading to Erdogan's planned attack Syria's Kurds was shelved. The Barzanis however fully supported Erdogan's deployment to Bashiqa and continue to support it.

Despite Erdogan's December 2015 invasion plans being shelved his aggression towards Kurds has continued with airstrikes in Turkey, Syria and Iraq's Kurdish Region. These attacks have been universally condemned including by the government Iraq. However they have been supported by the Barzanis allowing them to continue.

In no small part due to the support of the Barzanis Erdogan was finally able to invade Syria in August 2016.

He sent troops to occupy a roughly 100km (60 mile) wide area designated; "Garvaghy Road." This sits between the Kurdish held "Shangri-La" area and the Kurdish held "Afrin Canton" area.

Erdogan's invasion was intended to stop Syria's Kurds from linking these two areas under their control. From Garvaghy Road Erdogan has repeatedly attacked Syrian Kurds in both Shangri-La and Afrin Canton.

Having invaded Garvaghy Road Erdogan with the help of former US President Barack Obama then set about trying to oust the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from the SDF coalition. This effort was twofold establishing the Syrian Arab Council (SAC) within the SDF and providing a rival Kurdish force known as the Roj Peshmerga.

The Barzanis were more than happy to assist Erdogan in this effort training the Roj Peshmerga at the Turkish Bashiqa camp and other camps within Iraq's Kurdish Region. In March 2017 the Barzanis even sent the Roj Peshmerga to attack the Yezidi Sinjar/Shingal Protection Units (YBS) - an element of the ISF - at Sinjar/Shingal.

What I would have liked to be writing about today are the latest developments in the SDF's battle to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIL. In the past couple of days they have struck a deal which saw a large number of ISIL fighters surrender.

Residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul have been asking why a similar deal wasn't reached to prevent their city being destroyed in the effort to liberate it from ISIL. The simple answer to that is the Mosul operation was so poorly planned the option never arose whereby ISIL would consider surrendering.

When the Mosul operation was launched in October 2017 former President Obama's only concern was the November 2016 US Presidential Election. He wanted headlines about ISIL being ousted from Mosul to help propel his designated successor Hillary Clinton to victory in that election.

Beyond that Obama put absolutely no thought into planning the Mosul operation. This lack of planning was obvious to all other members of the US-led coalition - Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR).

As a result as the start of the Mosul operation approached there was an intense international effort to have it delayed until it could be properly planned out. This effort included the Iraqi government.

However as they did with the Bashiqa camp and the airstrikes the Barzanis again broke with the international consensus and pressed for the Mosul operation to start. It was actually Turkish troops which the Barzanis have continued to allow to be stationed at the Bashiqa camp that fired the first shots of the Mosul battle on October 16th (16/10/17).

While the ISF and CJTFOIR were fighting a 216 day battle to liberate Mosul the Barzanis and the Peshmerga were essentially on holiday.

Shirking the responsibility for fighting ISIL the Barzanis instead used this as an opportunity to put their pipedream into action. They called a vote for September 25th (25/9/17) on declaring the Iraqi Kurdish Region as an independent nation state.

This vote was called without the consent of the Iraqi government. As such it can in no way be considered a referendum under international law.

In calling this vote the Barzanis also completely disregarded the laws of the Iraqi Kurdish Region itself.

Masoud Barzani's term as Kurdish Regional President actually expired all the way back in 2015. However rather than face re-election he used the fight against ISIL as excuse to suspended the Kurdish Regional Parliament. That Parliament did not resume its work until the vote had been called. While the fight against ISIL was continuing.

The Barzanis also held the vote outside of the borders of the Iraqi Kurdish Region. This included in areas such as Kirkuk, Mosul and Sinjar/Shingal where people reported being intimidated into voting by the Peshmerga force.

In calling their vote the Barzanis compared it to the similar vote being held in the Catalonia region of Spain a week later on October 1st (1/10/17). In part this comparison led to Catalonia suffering a series of Islamist terror attacks on August 18th (18/8/17).

So the Spanish government turned the Catalonia vote into an example showing just how unpopular the Barzanis and their pipedream are amongst the international community.

The main part of this effort involved the Spanish Federal police being sent to Catalonia to use force to prevent the October 1st (1/10/17) vote taking place. Amid scenes of elderly women being pulled from polling stations by their hair this police violence is said to have injured 900+ and resulted in the death of at least one person.

That stood in stark contrast to the highly restrained way that Iraq had responded to the Barzanis equally illegal vote. Despite all the Barzanis claims of Shia and Iranian oppression no action was taken to prevent the September 25th (25/9/17) vote from taking place.

As it was always known they would following the October 1st (1/10/17) vote the Catalonia region has now abandoned plans to declare independence. In effect acknowledging that the vote could in no way be considered a referendum.

That leaves the Barzanis looking extremely isolated in pretending they in any way held a referendum let alone one that allows them to claim the Iraqi Kurdish Region as an independent nation state.

While the Barzanis have been showing off the ISF have been quietly getting to work liberating the Hawija Triangle from ISIL.

As I've said I've always considered the liberation of the Hawija Triangle as part of the Tikrit operation rather than an operation in itself. Having gained the experience of liberating Mosul the ISF were able to quickly sweep through the Hawija Triangle all but liberating it on October 5th (5/10/17).

The final part of the Hawija Triangle operation is the securing of the Kirkuk oil fields which sit to the north-east. On a tactical level this means securing control over the K1 Military Base and Kirkuk Regional Air Base which sit on the south-western outskirts of Kirkuk City. Those bases were established because they control access to the Kirkuk oil fields.

What should have happened is that the Peshmerga peacefully negotiate the return of that base area to the ISF. However the Barzanis are still pumped up in their false belief they are the leaders of an independent nation which has some right to Iraq's oil fields. So they refused to negotiate.

On Friday (13/10/17) the Iraqi government government gave the Peshmerga until 00:00 (02:00 local) on Sunday (15/10/17) to vacate the locations and hand them back to the ISF.

The Barzanis though refused and ordered the Peshmerga to fight the ISF for control of the oil fields.

This puts the Barzanis in an absolutely untenable position. It means they are waging war against Iraq just like ISIL have done. If that is the path they choose there is little option other than for the Iraqi government to treat them like ISIL by arresting them and putting them on trial for treason. An offence that carries the death penalty.

The October 15th (15/10/17) deadline came and went. The Iraqi government's response was to wait a further 24 hours to give the Barzanis time to consider their position and negotiate.

The Barzanis refused so at 00:00 (02:00 local) this morning the ISF moved in to secure Kirkuk's oil fields.

This has created a very dynamic situation which seems to be changing minute-by-minute. Also the Iraqi government and the Rudaw news outlet which is run by the Barzani family have been engaging in an intense propaganda war with frequent and conflicting claims.

However is seems that the Peshmerga have sensibly disregarded the Barzanis illegal orders and allowed the ISF to take control over the K1 Bases and by extension Kirkuk's oil fields.

Though with the Peshmerga doing their lawful duty the Barzanis have resorted to calling on Kirkuk's Kurdish residents to take up arms. This has led to those Kurdish residents attacking  Kirkuk's other ethnic groups such as Turkmen.

We are now waiting to see if the ISF will enter Kirkuk city and what sort of illegal resistance the Barzanis will conduct if they do.

16:20 on 16/10/17 (UK date).


Friday, 13 October 2017

Operation Featherweight: Month 39, Week 4, Day 5.

On November 6th 2016 (6/11/17) the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF/QSD) launched an operation to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The SDF are a coalition of Kurdish, Christian, Turkmen and Arab forces. The Arab element which makes up around 50% of the coalition is made up of both fragments of the long defunct Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Arab tribes indigenous to northern Syria.

The SDF is supported by the US-led coalition Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR).

The city of Raqqa sits on the Euphrates River. It is located around 200km (120 miles) west of Syria's border with Iraq and around 100km (60 miles) south of Syria's border with Turkey. It has functioned as ISIL's de facto capital in Syria.

The first stage of the SDF's operation was to advance on Raqqa from three directions; North, West and East. This was completed on March 19th 2017 (19/3/17) with the SDF taking up positions at al-Karamah - around 30km (20 miles) south-east of Raqqa.

On March 22nd (22/3/17) the SDF launched an operation to liberate the town of Tabqa and the adjoining Tabqa Dam which forms Lake Assad out of the Euphrates River. This operation was completed on May 11th (11/5/17) giving the SDF control of positions on the southern banks of the Euphrates some 40km (25 miles) west of Raqqa.

On June 6th (6/6/17) the operation to liberate Raqqa itself was begun.

ISIL's plan for the defence of Raqqa appears to have been built around establishing a sort of main headquarters within the central areas of the city. Roughly in the area between the an-Nadah district to the west and the Old City district to the east.

This believed main headquarters actually stretches across several districts including al-Baytra, Hanah, Amin and what is known as the Security Box. It is perhaps better defined by landmarks such as Harun al-Rashid Gardens, April 7th Park, the National Hospital and the Municipal Football Stadium.

ISIL seemed to assume that the SDF would attack from the north. As a result they established the bulk of their defences to the north of the city. Roughly between the old Syrian Army - Division 17 - base and the area of their main headquarters.

Instead what the SDF actually did was attack in three directions; The North, The West and the East. At the same time the SDF swept west-to-east from Tabqa along the southern bank of the Euphrates in order to isolate Raqqa from the main body of Syria.

The northern axis' first task was to liberate the Division 17 base. They completed that task on or around August 1st (1/8/17) before entering into a holding pattern.

The SDF's western axis entered the Raqqa via the Jazra suburb. By July 3rd (3/7/17) it had succeeded in completely liberating the Sabahiya, Romaniyah, al-Qadisiyyah and al-Hattin districts and parts of the an-Nadah and al-Baryd districts. These all sit on the western outskirts of Raqqa.

The SDF's eastern axis began by entering the Mashlab district at the most south-easterly tip of Raqqa on June 6th (6/6/17). By June 17th (17/6/17) it had succeeded in liberating the Mashlab, al-Sinaa and Bitani districts. These all sit on the eastern outskirts of Raqqa.

On July 2nd (2/7/17) the eastern axis entered the Hisham Abdulmalik district at the very south of Raqqa on the banks of the Euphrates.

On July 17th (17/7/17) the western axis entered the Shahada district. This also sits at the very south of Raqqa directly adjacent to the Hisham Abdulmalik district.

On August 10th (10/8/17) the SDF were able to declare both the Hisham Abdulmalik and Shahada districts fully liberated. This linked the eastern and western axis liberating the south of Raqqa from ISIL.

The SDF then set about liberating the districts which sit between the eastern and western outskirts and the area of ISIL's believed main headquarters.

On September 2nd (2/9/17) the SDF's eastern axis succeeded in fully liberating the Old City district. This sits north of the Hisham Abdulmalik district, west of the al-Sinaa district and one city block east of the Harun al-Rashid Gardens.

On September 8th (8/9/17) the SDF's western axis liberated the Darayeh district. This sits directly north of the Shahada district and directly west of the al-Moroor district.

On September 10th (10/9/17) the western axis liberated the al-Moroor district itself. This also sits directly north of the Shahada district, directly west of the Security Box.

In doing this the SDF liberated a number of the key buildings that make up ISIL's believed headquarters.

On August 28th (28/8/17) the SDF's western axis liberated the Children's Hospital Complex. This is located on the junction between Shahada district, al-Moroor district and the Security Box. It had long been used by ISIL as a military base and a command & control centre.

On September 6th (6/9/17) the SDF's western axis liberated the Court House and Criminal Security complex. This sits north of where al-Moroor district meets an-Nadah district and is directly across the road from the National Hospital Complex.

On September 12th (12/9/17) the SDF's eastern axis liberated the Governate Building. This sits directly north of the Hisham Abdulmalik district roughly 200 metres/yards or one city block south of Harun al-Rashid Gardens.

On September 28th (28/9/17) ISIL finally realised that their central headquarters were being overrun from the south, west and east. This prompted them to withdraw their forces from the north of the city in an attempt to defend the central area.

This triggered a mass collapse in ISIL's defences. In the space of little more than a day the SDF were able to fully liberate the Tishrin, al-Rawdah and Ramilah districts which sits to its north-east of the city. They were also able to liberate the Grain Storage area which sits to the north of al-Thawrah district and east of the Railway Depot/Station directly adjacent to Ramilah district.

In liberating the al-Rawdah district the SDF's eastern axis were also able to liberate the Dalla Roundabout junction and advance to the Naem Roundabout junction. This divides the area containing Harun al-Rashid Gardens to the south from the area containing the Municipal Football Stadium to the north-west.

ISIL's September 20th (20/9/17) collapse also allowed the SDF to liberate a number of the key landmarks that make up ISIL's central headquarters area.

In quick succession they liberated Harun al-Rashid Gardens and the Air Force Intelligence building which sits directly to its north. They also liberated the April 7th Garden and the Children's Garden. These sit close to the National Hospital Complex.

On September 25th (25/9/17) the SDF also liberated the al-Tawleed Hospital complex. This sits directly east of the Children's Garden in the area between the Naem Roundabout junction on the Municipal Football Stadium. In liberating the al-Tawleed Hospital complex the SDF united their eastern and western axis in the centre of the city.

On September 23rd (23/9/17) they liberated the Al Firdous Mosque. This sits directly across the road from the Children's Garden to the north-west.

On September 25th (25/9/17) they liberated the Imam Nawawi Mosque. This sits roughly in the centre of the an-Nadah district.

Immediately following ISIL's September 20th (20/9/17) collapse the northern axis moved from their holding pattern and began advancing south.

By September 29th (29/9/17) the northern axis had succeeded in liberating the Ba'ath and Andalus districts. These sit between the Divison 17 base and Railway Station/Depot. They had also succeeded in liberating the Railway Station/Depot itself.

By Tuesday (3/10/17) the northern had succeeded in liberating the area between the Railway Station/Depot and the main road which runs between the Military Intelligence building in al-Wahdah district and Train Square in Thawrah district.

These rapid gains mean that ISIL are now limited to a small area in the north of the city. This area is a rough "V" shape with the Naem Roundabout junction at its tip spanning out north to include parts of al-Wahdah, Hurriyah and Thawrah districts.

ISIL however does hold on to just two of the key landmarks in what used to be considered its main headquarters in Raqqa. The National Hospital Complex and the Municipal Football Stadium which is sometimes known as; "The Black Stadium."

What has delayed the liberation of the National Hospital and Municipal Stadium complexes is that ISIL have kidnapped the civilians in the surrounding area.

ISIL have forced those potentially thousands of civilians into the buildings at the two locations and are using them as human shields. It is believed ISIL have rigged the buildings with explosives and are prepared to use heavy weapons to defend them.

As a result operations at those locations are not so much traditional warfare. Instead they more closely resemble urban hostage rescue operations. With both locations covering large areas containing multi-level buildings they are both extremely complex hostage rescue situations.

The situation at the Municipal Football Stadium seems to be completely without precedent. Or certainly any precedent I can recall.

The situation at the National Hospital seems similar to several previous situations. The November 2008 Taj Mahal Hotel siege in Mumbai, India. The October 2002 Dubrovka Theatre siege in Moscow, Russia. The September 2004 School Number One siege in Beslan, Russia.

None of those scenarios played out particularly well for the hostages.

Within the northern area which I think has to be dubbed the; "Victory Zone" fighting has returned to its usual tempo. This involves buildings slowly being liberated window-by-window, room-by-room and street-by-street.

Following the rapid gains of the September 20th (20/9/17) collapse this may seem as though the SDF's operations have slowed. However it is just them returning to the expected pace.

The SDF's east-to-west sweep south of Raqqa achieved its primary objective of cutting Raqqa of from the main body of Syria on June 29th (29/6/17). On July 30th (30/7/17) it was forced to stop its advance after taking up positions just north of the town of Dalhah around 25km (15 miles) south-east of Raqqa.

What stopped the SDF's west-to-east advance was not ISIL but the Syrians themselves. Since May they have been advancing east from Aleppo City to liberate the north of the country from ISIL. On July 30th (30/7/17) they reached Dalhah.

While the presence of the Syrians has prevented the SDF from advancing on the southern bank of the Euphrates it has not stopped them advancing on the northern banks. Starting from al-Karamah they advanced some 100km (60 miles) past Madan to roughly the Jubaylah area. This is around 10km (6 miles) north of Deir-ez-Zour City.

Alongside side their operation to liberate Raqqa City the SDF launched an operation codenamed; "Cizre Storm" on September 9th (9/9/17).

The starting point for the operation is the Madan-Shaddadi Line.

This stretches from the town of Madan on the banks of the Euphrates River around 65km (40 miles) north-west of Deir-ez-Zour City to the town of Shaddadi on the banks of the Khobar River around 100km (60 miles) north-east of Deir-ez-Zour City.

The objective of the operation is for the SDF to advance some 200km (120 miles) south-east from the Madan-Shaddadi Line to Syria's border with Iraq.

This will see the SDF advance across the Khobar River basin allowing them to use the Euphrates River as the boundary of the area under their control designated; "Shangri-La." It will also see the SDF take control of a number of key oil fields keeping them out of the hands of both ISIL and the Syrian government.

On September 13th (13/9/17) the SDF reached the Industrial Zone on the outskirts of Deir-ez-Zour City. They did this by extending a roughly 3km (1.8 mile) wide and 55km (30 mile) deep corridor from the Madan-Shaddadi Line to the Industrial Zone.

Following an unfortunate delay the second phase of the operation was launched on September 20th (20/9/17). This saw the SDF advance from the Deir-ez-Zour Industrial Zone towards the Khobar River on three axis.

The first axis set out to advance south-east from the Industrial Zone on the outskirts of Deir-ez-Zour City along the north bank of the Euphrates. This axis is heading the general direction of al-Zuwaymiyah - a village on the junction of where the Khobar reaches the Euphrates. However the objective is to clear all of the area between the Industrial Zone and the Khobar River.

The second axis set out to advance east from the Madan-Shaddadi Line - Industrial Zone corridor. This axis is headed in the direction of as-Suwar - a town sitting on the banks of the Khobar around 50km (30 miles) north-east of Deir-ez-Zour city.

The third axis set out to advance south from Shaddadi to the town of Markadah. This sits on the banks of the Khobar around 45km (25 miles) south of Shaddadi and around 95km (60 miles) north-east of Deir-ez-Zour City.

The first axis has now reached the area around the village of al-Zuwaymiyah. In the process it has liberated the al-Isba Oil & Gas Fields and the Jafra Oil & Gas Fields.

On September 26th (26/9/17) the second axis reached the town of as-Suwar and declared it fully liberated.

On October 4th (4/10/17) the third axis reached the town of Markadah. However it's liberation has not yet been confirmed.

The second and third axis are now advancing north and south respectively in an effort to unite between as-Suwar and Markadah. At current estimates they are around 5km (3 miles) away from each other.

16:55 on 13/10/17 (UK date).

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Operation Featherweight: Month 39, Week 4, Day 2.

Within in Syria the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are primarily being fought by two main groups.

There is the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF/QSD). This is a coalition of Syrian Kurdish, Christian, Arab and Turkmen forces. They are backed by the US-led coalition - Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR).

Then there are the Syrians themselves. They are backed by Russia, Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Operating independently of each other both are putting great pressure on ISIL in the Euphrates River basin area. The SDF primarily in the city of Raqqa and the Khobar River basin. The Syrians primarily in the cities of Deir-ez-Zour and Mayadin.

The Syrians are also fighting the Army of Conquest/Jaish al-Fatah (JAF) coalition. This is closely allied to ISIL and lead by The Base/Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate The Support Front/Jabhat al-Nusra.

In December 2016 the Astana Process on Syria was formed.

At the fifth round of meetings in the Astana Process on May 3rd (3/5/17) and May 5th (5/5/17) agreement was reached to create four zones within Syria dubbed; "The Astana Zones." Within these zones fighting between the Syrians and the Army of Conquest would be suspended.

By August 18th (18/8/17) three of the four Astana Zones had been established. In Deraa and Quneitra Provinces along Syria's borders with Israel and Jordan. In Homs Province. Around the Syrian capital Damascus, primarily in the East Ghouta suburb.

The remaining zone covered Idlib Province centred around Idlib City. This sits right on Syria's border with Turkey.

It is an area that Turkish President/Prime Minister/Emperor Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long wished to annex as part of a new Ottoman Empire. As such it has been designated; "The Sudetenland" in reference to the way Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938.

On September 14th (14/17/17) and September 15th (15/9/17) the sixth round of meetings in the Astana Process took place. This focused heavily on establishing the Sudetenland as an Astana Zone under Turkish control.

The parties to the Astana Process are Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey. The US was granted observer status to the process in January 2017. However the UK remains excluded.

So on September 15th (15/9/17) the UK attempted to muscle its way into the Astana Process. This involved staging an Islamist terror attack on an Underground Rail (Metro/Tube) train in the Parson's Green area of London.

The objective was to express the UK's opposition to the establishment of the Sudetenland as an Astana Zone due to the increased threat of terrorism this would create. It was also intended to shake the Astana meeting in an effort to force it to reveal information about how it was progressing.

This had the complete opposite effect. By exerting pressure on the Astana meeting to reveal how it was progressing the UK's stunt forced the participants to announce that the Sudetenland was to be established as an Astana Zone. Almost immediately regular Turkish forces began massing on the border.

On or around September 19th (19/9/17) those regular Turkish forces entered Syria.

They actually entered an area of northern Syria designated; "Garvaghy Road." This was illegally invaded by regular Turkish forces in August 2016 and has been illegally occupied by them ever since.

Directly to the west of Garvaghy Road you have an area under SDF control designated; "Afrin Canton." The Sudetenland sits directly to the south of Afrin Canton.

After entering Syria these fresh Turkish forces were stopped at a deconvolution line Russia has established between Garvaghy Road and Afrin Canton. They have been waiting there for Russian permission to continue to the Sudetenland ever since.

Meanwhile both the Syrians and Russia have massively increased their operations against the Army of Conquest in the Sudetenland.

In two days of operations up to September 21st (21/9/17) Russia alone killed in excess of 850 Army of Conquest fighters and destroyed 120 vehicles and fighting positions. This included gravely wounding Abu Mohammad al-Julani - the group's Commander-in-Chief.

The Syrians also intensified their operations in East Ghouta. Within the Damascus Astana Zone.

This intensification of operations against the Army of Conquest in the Sudetenland and Damascus Astana Zones led to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to declare on October 5th (5/10/19) that fighting in Syria was at its most intense since the liberation of Aleppo City in December 2016. The liberation of Aleppo City led to the establishment of the Astana Process.

With his dreams of annexing the Sudetenland seeming to be once again in ruins Erdogan shifted his tactics.

Firstly he renewed his threats to send regular Turkish forces to enter and seize Afrin Canton from the SDF. It is widely considered that allowing Turkish forces to enter the Sudetenland is the price Russia is being forced to pay for protecting the SDF in Afrin Canton.

Therefore September 19th (19/9/17) was really not the time for the SDF to be attacking Russia at Deir-ez-Zour City.

Within the Sudetenland the relationship between fragments of the long defunct Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Al Qaeda is much closer than it is elsewhere in Syria. Rather than simply entering into the Army of Conquest coalition FSA fragments within the Sudetenland have actively joined Al Qaeda under the name; The Organisation for the Liberation of the Levant/Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Primarily using a senior Salafist preacher by the name of Abdul Razzaq al-Mahdi Erdogan has been trying to split the FSA fragments away from Al Qaeda. The hope being that they will once again be treated as; "Moderate Rebels" and their deep ideological links to Al Qaeda will be forgotten.

One of the most high profile FSA fragments within the Sudetenland are the astonishingly brutal Movement of Nour al-Din al-Zenki/Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. One of their most famous fighters in Ghassan Alabed, father of "Aleppo Girl" Bana Alabed.

It almost goes without saying that as the al-Zenki Movement are trying to distance themselves from Al Qaeda Erdogan is again aggressively promoting the Bana Alabed myth with the memoir; "Dear World: A Syrian Girl's Story of War and Plea for Peace."

On Friday (6/10/17) into Saturday (7/10/17) Erdogan made some progress in his quest to annex the Sudetenland.

The Garvaghy Road area of Syria is under the occupation of both regular Turkish forces and irregular Turkish forces. Those irregular forces are known as the United Turkmen Army (UTA).

The UTA are formed out of the paramilitary wing of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who are known as the Grey Wolves. Taking their brigade names from famous Ottoman Emperors such as Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror the UTA are also sometimes known as the Syrian Turkmen Brigades (STB).

Rather than regular Turkish forces entering the Sudetenland the agreement now seem to be that the UTA will enter the area with some support from Turkish Special Operations Forces (SOF's). This process began on Saturday (7/10/17) and the exact extent of Turkish SOF involvement is still to be determined.

The plan seem to be that all of HTS including Al Qaeda will join up with the UTA and relaunch themselves as "moderate rebels" under the banner" New Syrian Army (NSA)."

Also on Saturday (7/10/17) the UK suffered another Islamist terror attack. A Muslim man drove his car into pedestrians outside the Natural History Museum in London. Fortunately nobody was killed but 11 people were injured.

The Natural History Museum is a significant target.

As they have been across much of the World in the last few weeks Turkish children have been returning to school. However this year for the first time ever they are forbidden from learning about Charles Darwin and his universally accepted Theory of Evolution.

Erdogan has decreed that Turkish children will be confused by learning about evolution. Instead they may only learn the Theory of Creation as laid down in the Holy Qu'ran. Or technically the Book of Genesis which is know to Jews as part of the Torah and to Christians as part of the Bible's Old Testament.

The Natural History Museum is obviously dedicated to the history of life on Earth. It includes many specimens actually collected by Darwin as part of his research into evolution. As such you could say it is something of a monument to Darwin and Evolution.

Such a monument stands as an affront to Erdogan and his version of Islam.

Apart from the start of the new school year autumn in the UK has also brought the return of the TV Show; "Strictly Come Dancing." This is BBC1's flagship Saturday night entertainment show.

I don't think it's actually a law that if you are British you have to have an opinion on "Strictly" as it's known. However my coverage of the 2016 season was certainly given undue prominence during the early stages of the Astana Process.

One of the most talked about contestants this year is Johnnie Peacock. This single, below-the-knee amputee Para-Olympic sprinter did particularly well at the 2016 Sultan Mehmed Games held in Brazil.

You may remember those games were opened by double below-the-knee Para-Olympian Amy Purdy dancing with a robot. Using skills she'd learned on the equivalent US show; "Dancing With the Stars (DWTS)"

The theme for Saturday (7/10/17) night's edition of Strictly was "Movie Week." This saw Johnnie Peacock perform a routine inspired by the Indiana Jones movies. In order to get him into the mindset of the famous archaeologist they packed him and his dance partner off to the Natural History Museum to practice.

The car used in the Natural History Museum attack was said to have; "Pirouetted." I really hope London police aren't planning on using that as evidence to support their denial that it was a terror attack.

The Natural History Museum is actually in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. This is the same administrative area of London as the Grenfell Tower.

On June 8th (8/6/17) the UK held a General Election. This was preceded by two Islamist terror attacks. The first a bombing at the Manchester Evening News Arena (MENA) in Manchester. The second a marauding run-over and stabbing attack in the London Bridge area of London.

Both of these attack were directed by the nation state of Qatar through the Muslim Brotherhood organisation. Their purpose was to hand victory to the Muslim Brotherhood supporting Labour Party in that election. Failing that it was to deny Britain a majority government to weaken it.

With the Labour Party keen to accept the support of Islamist terrorists the attacks achieved their secondary objective. Britain has been denied a majority government and Brexit negotiations are going down in flames leaving the UK in little position to object to the Muslim Brotherhood's attacks in Syria.

The Labour Party then decided to take things a step further. They set fire to the Grenfell Tower murdering a presumed 80 people. The intention was to use the dead as martyrs in an attempt to overthrow the government. Essentially the Muslim Brotherhood's playbook in Syria with things like the Bana Alabed myth.

The fact that no member of the Labour Party has been prosecuted over either of the terror attacks or the Grenfell Tower arson makes Britain look ridiculously weak.

Reminding everybody of that fact sends the message that a nation that is not prepared to defend its own capital city certainly won't be prepared to defend a patch of desert in northern Syria some 5,000km (3,000 miles) away.

As something of an added bonus at the time of the Natural History Museum attack a; "March Against Violent (Muslim) Extremism" was also taking place in the Kensington area. Many of the police assigned to this march were rushed to the scene of the attack.

The march was organised by a group calling themselves "Football Lads Alliance." Essentially made up of football hooligans this can trace its roots back to the English Defence League (EDL).

You remember that in the aftermath of the "White Terror" events in Charlottesville, Virginia, US on August 12th (12/8/17) US President Trump was pilloried for drawing an equivalency between white pride groups and far-left groups like Anti-Fascist Action (ANTIFA)? Well.

In 2008 the British intelligence services formed the EDL as a way to prevent members of the white working class finding a home amongst the far-left. The intention was to get the EDL and ANTIFA fighting each other rather than united to fighting the suicidal economic policies of then Finance Minister George Osborne.

Although I find them distinctly unpleasant the EDL are not a hardcore racist group. However they did go on to spawn extreme neo-Nazi groups like National Action. Who were proscribed as a domestic terror group in December 2016.

It has long been a tactic of particularly Al Qaeda to use Islamist terror attacks to polarise society. Muslims are forced into groups like Al Qaeda while non-Muslims are forced into groups like National Action. Society then collapses as the two groups fight it out.

This tactic was particularly on display in the August 18th (18/8/17) attacks in Barcelona, Spain. Scene of the original White Terror.

The proximity of the Natural History Museum attack to the Football Lads Alliance march was likely a factor in the police's decision to cover-up the fact it was a terror attack. To prevent non-Muslims being prompted to join future marches as part of the backlash.

The main factor behind the police's decision to attempt to cover-up the fact it was a terror attack was that Labour's London Mayor Sadiq Khan was immediately on the phone to them. Putting pressure on them to deny that it was a terror attack.

Just like Sadiq Khan put pressure on the police to declare the similar events at Finsbury Park Mosque on June 18th (18/6/17) were an anti-Muslim terror attack.

That is hugely counterproductive because in doing so the police have sent the message to non-Muslims that London's Muslim Mayor won't allow them to protect people from terrorism. So they'd best take matters into their own hands by joining National Action.

The Natural History Museum attack was actually preceded by a coded warning.

The May 22nd (22/5/17) MENA bombing triggered a huge split in the Gulf Sunni Arab world. Essentially all the Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia imposed sanctions on Qatar over the bombing and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Being united by the Muslim Brotherhood Turkey immediately lept to Qatar's aid increasing its trade to alleviate the sanctions. Right now the only thing stopping Saudi Arabia expanding the sanctions to Turkey is the US.

Some of the coverage of the October 1st (1/10/17) shooting in Las Vegas, US has fixated on the gunman's cruise trips to anti-Muslim Brotherhood coalition nations Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This is being presented as a possible link to Islamist terrorism. That alone should tell you there's at least one person at the heart of the US government whose a f*cking moron.

Around six to eight hours before the Natural History Museum attack the Saudis foiled an attack against the Royal Palace in Jeddah. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was in residence at the time. The Palace sits on Andalus Street which is the name given to Spain when it was part of an Islamist Caliphate.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is home to Kensington Palace. The official residence of British Crown Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Hence why it is considered a Royal Borough.

Events in Saudi Arabia strike me as the sort of thing a friendly intelligence agency does when they have a suspicion that something is about to happen but don't have enough information to issue a formal, actionable warning.

Police in London decided in all of about 55 minutes that they weren't going to investigate the Natural History Museum attack as a terrorists attack. Around two hours later a woman was arrested for attempting to climb the gates of Buckingham Palace. The official residence of the British Crown.

That struck me as someone much higher up the chain-of-command attempting to remind the police to their duty.

Depressingly the police charged the woman who climbed the gates at Buckingham Palace but released the Natural History Museum attacker.

16:10 on 10/10/17 (UK date).



















Friday, 6 October 2017

Operation Featherweight: Month 39, Week 3, Day 5.

This should be read as a direct continuation of; https://watchitdie.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/operation-featherweight-month-39-week-3.html

Alongside side their operation to liberate Raqqa City the SDF launched an operation codenamed; "Cizre Storm" on September 9th (9/9/17).

The starting point for the operation is the Madan-Shaddadi Line.

This stretches from the town of Madan on the banks of the Euphrates River around 65km (40 miles) north-west of Deir-ez-Zour City to the town of Shaddadi on the banks of the Khobar River around 100km (60 miles) north-east of Deir-ez-Zour City.

The objective of the operation is for the SDF to advance some 200km (120 miles) south-east from the Madan-Shaddadi Line to Syria's border with Iraq.

This will see the SDF advance across the Khobar River basin allowing them to use the Euphrates River as the boundary of the area under their control designated; "Shangri-La." It will also see the SDF take control of a number of key oil fields keeping them out of the hands of both ISIL and the Syrian government.

Initially the operation made great progress. On September 13th (13/9/17) the SDF reached the Industrial Zone on the outskirts of Deir-ez-Zour City. They did this by extending a roughly 3km (1.8 mile) wide and 55km (30 mile) deep corridor from the Madan-Shaddadi Line to the Industrial Zone.

Unfortunately the Cizre Storm operation was being conducted almost exclusively by an element of the SDF coalition calling themselves the; "Syrian Elite Forces (SEF)."

Considered elite by no-one but themselves this is a fragment of the FSA which previously fought alongside ISIL against the Syrians in Deir-ez-Zour City. They had only joined the SDF a few weeks previously and had not gone through any sort of effective vetting procedure.

Having arrived at the Industrial Zone on the outskirts of Deir-ez-Zour City the SEF then proceeded to stand still. Rather than continuing the mission they demanded that CJTFOIR back them to once again join up with ISIL to fight the Syrians in the city.

After five days of waiting for the SEF refuse to move the Russians decided to give the SDF and CJTFOIR something of a boot up the bum on September 18th (18/9/17).

This involved conducting a small, airstike close to SDF's positions just outside Deir-ez-Zour City. Rather than being intended to cause death or injury the purpose of this strike was to nudge the SDF back onto their mission. It's similar to how on a pinball table an impact on one of the bumpers sends the ball off in another direction.

Sadly the US military which lead CJTFOIR seems to have been infected with the same anti-Russian hysteria which is so prevalent in what passes for US politics these days. As a result they have totally misunderstood the Russian and Syrian objectives in the advance towards Deir-ez-Zour City.

The US has viewed the Syrians advance as a mad scramble to seize the oil fields in the Khobar basin and block the SDF's advance into the region. It is in fact something much less sinister.

Back September 10th (10/9/17) the US State of Florida was effectively cut off from the rest of the country by Hurricane Irma. This led to a tense 30 hour wait before relief supplies could be brought in.

More recently US President Donald Trump has faced something of a political backlash following a percieved eight day delay in distributing relief supplies on the US territory of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria on September 20th (20/9/17).

Syrian troops and Syrian civilians have been totally besieged by ISIL within Deir-ez-Zour City since March 2014.

You only need to look at the anger at a perceived eight day delay in getting humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico or the relief that aid was able to be sent to Florida after just 30 hours to understand the huge pressure on the Syrian government to ease the suffering of Syrian citizens in Deir-ez-Zour City.

Due to their inability to understand the tactic Syrian and particularly Russian support for the SDF's Cizre Storm operation CJTFOIR were obviously unable to understand the September 18th (18/9/17) strike.

So rather than taking the hint they responded with anger threatening to strike Syrian and Russian positions. Believing they had the support of CJTFOIR that is exactly what the SEF did on September 19th (19/9/17).

Fortunately more established elements of the SDF then took over the Cizre Storm operation.

On September 20th (20/9/17) they launched an advance towards the Khobar River on three axis;

The first axis set out to advance south-east from the Industrial Zone on the outskirts of Deir-ez-Zour City along the north bank of the Euphrates. This axis is heading the general direction of al-Zuwaymiyah - a village on the junction of where the Khobar reaches the Euphrates. However the objective is to clear all of the area between the Industrial Zone and the Khobar River.

The second axis set out to advance east from the Madan-Shaddadi Line - Industrial Zone corridor. This axis is headed in the direction of as-Suwar - a town sitting on the banks of the Khobar around 50km (30 miles) north-east of Deir-ez-Zour city.

The third axis set out to advance south from Shaddadi to the town of Markadah. This sits on the banks of the Khobar around 45km (25 miles) south of Shaddadi and around 95km (60 miles) north-east of Deir-ez-Zour City.

On September 23rd (23/9/17) the first axis reached and liberated the Conoco gas plant at the al-Isba Oil & Gas Fields.

Obviously oil fields by their nature cover a large area. However at its closest point the al-Isba field is around 3km (1.8 miles) south-east of the Deir-ez-Zour Industrial Zone. At its furthest point it is around 14km (8 miles) south-east of the Industrial Zone and around 14km (8 miles) west of the Khobar River.

On September 30th (30/9/17) the first axis reached and liberated the Jafra Oil & Gas Fields. At its closest point this is around 15km (9 miles) south-east of the Deir-ez-Zour Industrial Zone. At its furthest point it is around 25km (15 miles) south-east of the Industrial Zone and only 5km (3 miles) west of the Khobar River.

Since then the first axis has concentrated on liberating a number of small villages and farms between the oil fields and the Euphrates River.

On September 26th (26/9/17) the second axis reached the town of as-Suwar. On September 29th (29/9/17) they declared the town fully liberated. Since then they have been working to increase their control over the town and the villages and farms that surround it.

The progress of the third axis has been slower. On Wednesday (4/10/17) they reached the town of Markadah. There have since been unconfirmed reports that they have fully liberated the town.

Although they do not have full control of the area between the Madan-Shaddadi Line and the Khobar River the advances of these three axis' means that the SDF now have effective control of the area.

Due particularly to the first and second axis' it is no longer realistically possible for the Syrians to cross the Euphrates at Deir-ez-Zour City and outflank the SDF to take control of the areas west of the Khobar.

On September 25th (25/9/17) Russia conducted a follow up to the September 18th (18/9/17) airstrike. On this occasion they struck the SDF at the newly liberated al-Isba Field.

The SDF again responded by firing against Syrian positions. However CJTFOIR appear to have learnt their lesson only putting out a statement pledging to work more closely with Russia to avoid any such incidents in the future.

For their part the Syrians have shown little interest in attempting to block the SDF's advance on the Khobar River.

In breaking the siege of Deir-ez-Zour City the Syrians established a line of control between the town of as-Suknah and Deir-ez-Zour City. This is known as the Suknah-Deir-ez-Zour Line.

Since the September 18th (18/9/17) standoff the Syrians have focused their attention on clearing ISIL from the area north of the Suknah-Deir-ez-Zour Line to the Euphrates River. This was largely completed with the liberation of the town of Madan on September 24th (24/9/17).

While the Syrians have been focused on clearing the area to the north ISIL have been attacking them to the south of the Suknah-Deir-ez-Zour Line.

On September 28th (28/9/17) ISIL launched an operation codenamed; "Abu Muhammad al-Adani Offensive." This seems to have been focused not only on cutting as-Suknah off from Deir-ez-Zour City but also on cutting as-Suknah off from Palmyra.

Having misread particularly the Russians intentions towards Deir-ez-Zour City CJTFOIR have been attempting to throw obstacles in the way of the Syrians advance. This including blocking buses carrying ISIL fighters and their families from the Arsal Barrens from reaching Deir-ez-Zour city and the SEF's attacks on Syrian positions.

It is well established that under former President Barack Obama the US was one of the main sponsors of ISIL. Therefore the assumption on the part of the Syrians and the Russians is that this al-Adani offensive is being directed by the US as part of this pattern of obstruction. Russia has even publicly accused the US of directing ISIL's operations.

As a result the response to ISIL's al-Adani offensive has been furious. The Syrians and their Russian backers have had no problem withstanding this offensive and from last Friday (29/9/17) have actually been taking territory from ISIL.

Today there are unconfirmed reports that the Syrians have entered the city of Mayadin. Believed to be ISIL's capital within Syria this sits on the banks of the Euphrates around 50km (30 miles) south-east of Deir-ez-Zour City. It also sits around 20km (12 miles) west of the Khobar River.

As such if these reports are true and the Syrians are able to liberate Mayadin that then would give them the opportunity to outflank the SDF and prevent them from liberating the area between the Khobar River and the Syria/Iraq border.

16:45 on 6/10/17 (UK date).






Thursday, 5 October 2017

Operation Featherweight: Month 39, Week 3, Day 4.

On November 6th 2016 (6/11/17) the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF/QSD) launched an operation to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The SDF are a coalition of Kurdish, Christian, Turkmen and Arab forces. The Arab element which makes up around 50% of the coalition is made up of both fragments of the long defunct Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Arab tribes indigenous to northern Syria.

The SDF is supported by the US-led coalition Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR).

The city of Raqqa sits on the Euphrates River. It is located around 200km (120 miles) west of Syria's border with Iraq and around 100km (60 miles) south of Syria's border with Turkey. It has functioned as ISIL's de facto capital in Syria.

The first stage of the SDF's operation was to advance on Raqqa from three directions; North, West and East. This was completed on March 19th 2017 (19/3/17) with the SDF taking up positions at al-Karamah - around 30km (20 miles) south-east of Raqqa.

On March 22nd (22/3/17) the SDF launched an operation to liberate the town of Tabqa and the adjoining Tabqa Dam which forms Lake Assad out of the Euphrates River. This operation was completed on May 11th (11/5/17) giving the SDF control of positions on the southern banks of the Euphrates some 40km (25 miles) west of Raqqa.

On June 6th (6/6/17) the operation to liberate Raqqa itself was begun.

It would appear that ISIL's plan for the defence of Raqqa was based on the idea that the SDF would attack from the north. To guard against this they placed the bulk of their defences in the north of the city.

The idea being to protect what is considered to be their main headquarters in the city from the SDF's advance. ISIL main headquarters is believed to be an area in the centre of the city between the Old City district to the east and the an-Nadah district to the west.

It stretches across several districts including al-Baytra, Hanah, Amin and what is known as the Security Box. It is perhaps better defined by landmarks such as Harun al-Rashid Gardens, April 7th Park, the National Hospital and the football stadium.

In fact what the SDF did was attack in three directions; The North, The West and the East. At the same time the SDF swept west-to-east from Tabqa along the southern bank of the Euphrates in order to isolate Raqqa from the main body of Syria.

The northern axis' first task was to liberate the former Syrian military - Division 17 - base to the north of the city. This task was completed on or around August 1st (1/8/17). The northern axis then moved into a holding pattern.

The SDF's western axis entered the Raqqa via the Jazra suburb on June 6th (6/6/17).  By July 3rd (3/7/17) the western axis had succeeded in completely liberating the Sabahiya, Romaniyah, al-Qadisiyyah and al-Hattin districts and parts of the an-Nadah and al-Baryd districts. These all sit on the western outskirts of Raqqa.

The SDF's eastern axis began by entering the Mashlab district at the most south-easterly tip of Raqqa on June 6th (6/6/17). By June 17th (17/6/17) it had succeeded in liberating the Mashlab, al-Sinaa and Bitani districts. These all sit on the eastern outskirts of Raqqa.

On July 2nd (2/7/17) the eastern axis entered the Hisham Abdulmalik district at the very south of Raqqa on the banks of the Euphrates.

On July 17th (17/7/17) the western axis entered the Shahada district. This also sits at the very south of Raqqa directly adjacent to the Hisham Abdulmalik district.

On August 10th (10/8/17) the SDF were able to declare both the Hisham Abdulmalik and Shahada districts fully liberated. This linked the eastern and western axis liberating the south of Raqqa from ISIL.

Before entering the Hisham Abdulmalik district the SDF's eastern axis entered the al-Rawdah district on June 28th (28/6/17). This sits directly north-west of the Bitani district and directly north of the Old City district.

On September 2nd (2/9/17) the SDF's succeeded in fully liberating the Old City district.

While fighting in the Shahada district the SDF's western axis entered the an-Nadah district on June 28th (28/6/17).

This sits directly north of the Karim district, south of the al-Bayrd district and directly east of the Hattin district. Although not particularly wide the an-Nadah district is quite long stretching almost from the outskirts of Raqqa to the Hanah district at the centre.

On August 28th (28/8/17) the SDF's western axis pushed up from the Shahada district to liberate the Children's Hospital complex.

This sits on the junction between the Shahada and al-Moroor districts and the Security Box. It is one of the landmarks which make what is considered to be ISIL's main headquarters in Raqqa having long been used as a military base and command centre by the group.

Having liberated the Children's Hospital complex the western axis then advanced north across the al-Moroor district to where it meets the an-Nadah district. They have then advanced along the road separating the al-Moroor and an-Nadah districts to the liberated Karim district.

This allowed the SDF to divide the al-Moroor and Darayeh districts from the Amin district which is at the centred of what is believed to be ISIL's main headquarters in Raqqa. It also allowed them to divide the  al-Moroor and Darayeh districts from the an-Nadah district.

That represented a significant strategic victory for the SDF. It shifted the dynamic from ISIL trying to defend one relatively large area into forcing them to try and defend several smaller areas all cut off from one another.

On September 6th (6/9/17) the SDF's western axis liberated the Court House and Criminal Security complex.

This is another of the key landmarks within what is considered ISIL's main headquarters in Raqqa. It sits between where the an-Nadah and al-Moroor districts meet.

Having liberated the Court House complex the SDF continued to push north. On September 7th (7/9/17) they liberated the al-Tishah neighbourhood.

This is the most southerly neighbourhood within the an-Nadah district. It's liberation traps any remaining fighters within the district between twin SDF advances from the north and south.

With the ISIL positions in the al-Moroor and Darayeh districts having being cut off from the Amin and an-Nadah districts respectively they quickly collapsed.

The Darayeh district was fully liberated by the SDF on September 8th (8/9/17) while al-Moroor was fully liberated on September 10th (10/9/17).

Having liberated the Court House complex the SDF's western axis then began pressing east into what is considered ISIL's main headquarters in Raqqa on September 12th (12/9/17). This saw them enter the city block which has the April 7th Park at it's southern tip and the Children's Gardens at its north-easterly tip.

On Google Maps someone has registered a building within this city block as the business "ISIS Capital." While that isn't strictly speaking true once the SDF move through this block to liberate the Children's Gardens it will put them within one city block or roughly 200 metres/yards from linking up with the eastern axis in the liberated Mansur neighbourhood of the Old City district.

While the SDF's western axis was pushing east the SDF's eastern axis was pushing north from the Hisham Abdulmalik district into the al-Baytra district.

On September 12th (12/9/17) they liberated the Governate Building. They then proceeded to attempt to advance the 300-400 metres/yards or roughly one city block from the Governate Building to the Harun al-Rashid Gardens.

With their main headquarters being attacked from the south, east and west it became obvious to ISIL that their defensive plan had failed. This triggered a mass collapse in ISIL's defences on September 20th (20/9/17) as they withdrew forces from the northern neighbourhoods to reinforce the centre.

This collapse meant that in the space of a day the SDF's eastern axis were able to fully liberate the al-Rawdah district and the Ramilah district which sits to its north. They were also able to liberate the Grain Storage area which sits to the north of al-Thawrah district and east of the Railway Depot/Station directly adjacent to Ramilah district.

The speed of ISIL's collapse was such that not even the SDF's high command were able to keep track of exactly how fast and how far their forces were advancing on the ground.

Amid ISIL's collapse in the north-east of the city the SDF's eastern axis have continued their advance north from the Governate Building.

In quick succession they liberated the Harun al-Rashid Gardens and the Air Force Intelligence building directly to its north. By September 25th (25/9/17) they had advanced through the security area around the Council building to the Naem Roundabout.

Directly to the west of the area containing the Harun al-Rashid Gardens and the Air Force Intelligence building you have the area containing the April 7th Park, Children's Garden and the Harun al-Rashid school.

Directly to the west of the April 7th Park you have the National Hospital complex. This very large facility is one of the key landmarks marking what is considered to be ISIL's headquarters within Raqqa.

On September 11th (11/9/17) the SDF's western axis launched an operation to liberate the National Hospital complex. In my previous post I stated that the National Hospital complex had been liberated on September 13th (13/9/17).

This was based on an unconfirmed report. Other unconfirmed reports since then still place the National Hospital complex under ISIL control. As a result I too am interested to know the exact status of the National Hospital complex although it is clear that it is at the very least in dispute.

Based on the assumption that the National Hospital complex had been liberated I also stated that the area including the April 7th Park, Children's Garden and the Harun al-Rashid school had also been fully liberated. Since then reports have suggested that this area is only under the disputed control of the SDF.

On Sunday (1/10/17) night (local) a lone gunman opened fire from windows on the 32nd floor of a hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, US on concert goers below. Despite being just one man armed with assault rifles modified to deliver close to fully automatic fire this gunman was able to saturate the area below him with gunfire killing 58 people and wounding 489 over the course of just 75 minutes.

The ability of just one relatively lightly armed person to cause this much carnage over a wide area is a persistent problem when fighting to liberate a city. One person in a commanding position can be the difference between a square kilometre (0.6milesq) of a city being declared fully liberated and remaining under disputed control.

Therefore I don't think any of the conflicting reports regarding the Harun al-Rashid school area are wrong. It is just a subjective matter that is open to different interpretation by different people at different times.

Despite the debate over the extent of the SDF's control of this area the eastern axis has succeeded in liberating the Children's Garden. On September 25th (25/9/17) they also liberated the al-Tawleed Hospital complex directly to the east of the Children's Gardens.

The al-Tawleed Hospital complex sits on the Naem Roundabout. It's liberation marks the unification of the SDF's western and eastern axis.

Having united the eastern and western axis' the SDF have pushed north into further into the an-Nadah district and the al-Wadah district that sits directly east of it.

On September 23rd (23/9/17) they liberated the Al Firdous Mosque. This sits directly across the road from the Children's Garden to the north-west.

On September 27th (27/9/17) the reached but have not yet fully liberated the football stadium. This large area sits directly across the road from the Children's Garden to the north-east.

On September 25th (25/9/17) they liberated the Imam Nawawi Mosque. This sits roughly in the centre of the an-Nadah district.

Forces from an-Nadah district and al-Wadah district are now attempting to converge on the Swan Garden. This sits directly to the west of the football stadium roughly 250 metres/yards north of the Children's Garden. On Tuesday (3/10/17) forces from an-Nadah reached the edge of the Swan Garden.

ISIL's collapse on September 20th (20/9/17) has also prompted the SDF's northern axis to end their holding pattern and advance south into the city.

By September 29th (29/9/17) the northern axis had succeeded in liberating the Ba'ath and Andalus districts. These sit between the Divison 17 base and Railway Station/Depot. They had also succeeded in liberating the Railway Station/Depot itself.

By Tuesday (3/10/17) they has succeeded in liberating the area between the Railway Station/Depot and the main road which runs between the Military Intelligence building in al-Wadah district and Train Square in Thawrah district.

The SDF's east-to-west sweep south of Raqqa achieved its primary objective of cutting Raqqa of from the main body of Syria on June 29th (29/6/17). On July 30th (30/7/17) it was forced to stop its advance after taking up positions just north of the town of Dalhah around 25km (15 miles) south-east of Raqqa.

What stopped the SDF's west-to-east advance was not ISIL but the Syrians themselves. Since May they have been advancing east from Aleppo City to liberate the north of the country from ISIL. On July 30th (30/7/17) they reached Dalhah.

At the same time the Syrians have been advancing to liberate the south of the country from ISIL. On June 9th (9/7/17) they reached al-Tanf on Syria's border with Iraq. From there they advanced to the city of Palmyra which sits almost directly in the centre of Syria and was liberated from ISIL by the Syrians in March 2017.

On August 6th (6/8/17) the Syrian advances from Dalhah and Palmyra converged on the town of as-Suknah. This sits around 130km (75 miles) south of Raqqa, 65km (40 miles) north-east of Palmyra.

From as-Suknah the Syrians objective was to reach the city of Deir-ez-Zour. This sits around 120km (70 miles) south-east of Raqqa and around 120km (70 miles) north-east of as-Suknah.

On September 9th (9/9/17) the Syrians reached Deir-ez-Zour city. This broke a three year siege which has seen Syrian forces completely surrounded by ISIL in two areas to the south-west and south-east of the city.

The Syrians advance on Deir-ez-Zour city saw the SDF launch a second operation on September 9th (9/9/17). Codenamed; "Cizre Storm" this was intended to see them advance on Deir-ez-Zour city from the north-west.

At around 17:25 on 5/10/17 (UK date) I will have to pick up the progress of that operation tomorrow.