Kurdish forces launch offensive on Manbij, Syria

US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an operation on the northern Syrian town of Manbij, a key Islamic State (IS) stronghold northwest of Aleppo.

KOBANI, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan24) – On Tuesday, the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an operation in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, a key Islamic State (IS) stronghold northwest of Aleppo.

An SDF commander told a Kurdistan24 correspondent embedded with the SDF operation in Manbij that forces who already crossed the Euphrates to the west are close to the town.

“Our forces that reached the outskirts of Manbij are now on a series of hills about 15 kilometers from the town, and we can see the town’s grain silos from the top of the hills,” an SDF commander on Manbij front told Kurdistan24.

Another SDF source told Kurdistan24 on Wednesday that IS withdrew from nearly 15 villages on the west bank of the Euphrates in the vicinity of Manbij.

“IS withdrew from many villages, including Shash-Hamdan, Job al-Sheikh Obeid, Balasha, Haloola, Aloush, Janaf al-Ahmar, Khashkhasha, Beer al-Omal, Minehal, Abu Safa, Rimelat, Rimela, and Haj Ali,” the SDF source said.

Additionally, a US official told Reuters on Tuesday that a group of US Special Forces will support the SDF offensive on the ground as advisers, not fighters.

“[The US special forces] will be as close as they need to be for the Syrian fighters to complete the operation [on Manbij]. But they [US forces] will not engage in direct combat,” the US official said.

Manbij is a key town located in the IS-held area in northern Syria. It is the only corridor open to the Turkish border and the world.

“[The significance of Manbij] is that it’s their [IS] last remaining funnel” to Europe, a US military official told Reuters.

The SDF has already launched two operations last week: the first one in the northern countryside of Raqqa on May 24, and the other one on May 30 towards the IS-held area of Tabqa, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) to the west of Raqqa.


The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which includes Kurds, Arabs and others, was formed in December 2015 at a conference in northeastern Syria. The Council aims at promoting a secular, democratic vision for Syria.

The SDC adopted an already established military force called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are fighting against IS. The SDF, founded in October 2015, unites Arab, Turkmen and Armenian militias, as well as Free Syrian Army (FSA) units.

The SDF liberated several IS strongholds in north and northeast Syria. The first was the liberation of Al-Hawl south of Hasakah in November 2015, and then in the south of Kobani 50 villages were liberated. IS was also pushed out of Tishrin Dam on Dec. 26, 2015.

On Feb. 10, SDF announced the control of Mengh and its military airport, north of Aleppo, Syria.

On Feb. 16, SDF launched a three-day military offensive titled “Wrath of Khabour” which ended in al-Shaddadi's liberation on Feb. 19.

Although mainstream media presents SDF as an inclusive force, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the primary element of the coalition and outnumbers all other groups.


Reporting by Hisham Arafat

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany and Ava Homa