National Security

Islamic State Might Be About To Lose Its ‘Last Remaining Funnel To Europe’

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Thousands of US backed Kurdish and Arab forces in Syria launched an offensive Tuesday against ISIS’s last stronghold near the Turkish Border known as the Manbij pocket.

A US military official described the Manbij pocket to Reuters as ISIS’s “last remaining funnel” to Europe. Preparations for the operation have been underway for some time and will likely take weeks to complete.

The Manbij pocket is a critical logistics point along the Euphrates river. ISIS routinely uses the Manbij pocket to ferry foreign fighters between Syria and Turkey. Turkey is the main entry point for European foreign fighters going to Syria to join ISIS.

Rami Abdel Rahman, president of the UK based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), told the Agence France Presse the US backed forces had “seized nine villages west of the Euphrates river” since Tuesday. The offensive has brought the US backed forces within 11 miles of the town of Manbij. Nasser Haj Mansour, a military advisor attached to the US backed forces, described to the AFP clashes with ISIS as “fierce and intense”.

Turkey insisted the offensive against the Manbij pocket should not consist of a majority of Syrian Kurdish rebels known as the YPG, whom Turkey regards as a terrorist group. The current force is mostly made up of Syrian Arabs with some assistance from the YPG. After the successful capture of Manbij pocket the Syrian YPG will withdraw from the area. The Manbij pocket has historically been populated by Sunni Arabs. A US official claimed to Reuters that Turkey supported the offensive.

The US led coalition reportedly conducted several airstrikes on the town of Manbij in preparation for the Assault. SOHR claimed fifteen civilians, including three children, were killed by coalition airstrikes in predawn raids assisting the offensive.

A contingent of US Special Operations forces will also assist the operation. However these US Special Operations forces will be serving in an advisory capacity away from the front lines. A US military official emphasized to Reuters they “will be close as they need to be for the (Syrian fighters) to complete the operation. But they will not be engaging in direct combat”. [RELATED: Pentagon Insists US Troops Injured By ISIS Not Engaged in ‘Active Combat’]

Over the weekend two US service members were injured separately by ISIS in Iraq and Syria while serving in an advisory capacity. The Pentagon insisted these US service members were not engaged in “active combat”.

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