The Battle for al-Bab

The battle for al-Bab, in Syria, rages on. In an increasingly crowded combat zone around the ISIS-held town, Turkish forces and their jihadist Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies are in a race with Syrian Army and allied militia to be the first to capture the town. Russian air strike killed 3 Turkish servicemen and wounded 11 others yesterday in what Kremlin called a “friendly fire” incident. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces (SDF) can only watch from sidelines as their resources, along with American support, are diverted further south towards ISIS capital Raqqa.

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It is now a matter of when al-Bab falls and what happens afterwards.

The indications seem to be that Russia and Turkey have agreed for the eventual FSA hold on the town, but it is not certain that Damascus agrees with this. There are already reports of exchange of fire between Syrian regime forces and Turkey-backed FSA jihadists. This is likely to continue, as ISIS is cleared from the area both sides will again face each other in the northeast of Aleppo.

Sadly, the great powers, USA and Russia, did not agree to support together the third and the best alternative force to liberate and hold on to the town: the SDF. with al-Bab, Kurds and their secular Arab allies would have had a contiguous zone of liberated areas in northern Syria as well as separating FSA from Assad territories. It is not foreseeable in the present circumstances that the SDF can re-take al-Bab from the victors of the current round of fighting.

Your scribe predicted that al-Bab would be the focal point of conflict back in August 2016.

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