Joseph V. Micallef writes: On July 21, 2014 IS militants announced that all Kurdish inhabitants had to leave Tal Abyad or they would be killed. Thousands of the town’s inhabitants, including Turkmen and Sunni Arab families, promptly fled. Islamic State militants systematically looted the abandoned homes and resettled displaced Arab refugees from the surrounding region.
A year later, on June 15, 2015, the town was recaptured by a combination of YPG, Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces and a variety of Arab militias operating under the umbrella of the Burkan al-Furat (The Euphrates Volcano), the YPG-FSA “joint operations room”, supported by air power from the U.S. and its coalition partners. Following the battle, U.S. officials praised YPG troops as being the most reliable of the ground forces working with the U.S. to roll back the Islamic State. The victory was seen as striking proof of how the combination of overwhelming American air power and effective and reliable boots on the ground could decisively defeat Islamic State forces.
The capture of Tal Abyad had another consequence. By combining Kurdish control of the Kobani and Jazeera cantons it created a “Kurdish corridor” extending from Iraqi Kurdistan all the way to the city of Kobani in north-central Syria. It thus linked up two of the three current autonomous Kurdish zones in Syria, in the process forming the nucleus of, what the Turkish government of President Recep Erdogan fears, will, potentially, be a Kurdish controlled zone that could someday serve as the core of an autonomous Kurdish state. [Continue reading…]