Tishreen Dam was taken in a ferocious battle
January 21, 2016 by Thomas Wictor
With each passing day, I’m more impressed by the ability of the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) and the Arab League to conceal what they’re doing in Syria. My little blog posts won’t change anything, because the plausible deniability is perfect. Operations security (OPSEC) is perfect. If I thought I were endangering anything, I wouldn’t do this. But the footage is being published, so I get to interpret it. A recent video showing the aftermath of the battle for Tishreen Dam is truly amazing. It was an extremely violent, sophisticated operation that everyone is downplaying.
The QSD took Tishreen Dam on December 26, 2015. Kurdish reporters embedded with the QSD are very careful to avoid showing too much. Tishreen Dam is the gateway over the Euphrates River into northwestern Syria.
Turkey has said that any Kurds crossing into northwestern Syria will be fired on. They’ve kept their word on multiple occasions. Always believe Turkish threats. The people running Turkey don’t appear to have any brakes.
On December 26, 2015, both Turkey and the United States said that only Arabs of the QSD had crossed Tishreen Dam. Pundits laughed and said that this was Turkey’s way of saving face. Well, that’s wrong. There’s no unambiguous evidence that Kurds from east of the Euphrates have crossed over into the west. However, the Syrian Arab Coalition—part of the QSD—is without question fighting west of the Euphrates.
Jaysh al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries) announced on January 6, 2016, that it had begun an offensive on the strategic city of Manjib. This group was not known to be well armed or supported by any outside nation, but suddenly they have clean new uniforms, and now they hide their faces.
They also have armored vehicles and unidentified autocannons (red arrow).
Analysts say that the Kurds are challenging Turkey’s “red line” of the Euphrates.
No. Only Arabs have crossed the river into northwestern Syria. Turkey’s non-response proves that. The Turks aren’t kidding around.
It was reported that Turkish troops have entered Syrian territory through Jarablus border crossing Tuesday evening.
According to the ANHA reporters who obtained information from local sources, the Turkish force of military vehicles and heavy equipment accompanied a mine detection and removal device. After crossing the border, Turkish soldiers moved westwards within the Syrian territory.
Sources reported that ISIS gangs in the area were all unresponsive to the activity of Turkish soldiers, and just watched them as they moved.
According to another unconfirmed report, a Turkish troop of thousand soldiers has now been deployed on Syrian land close to the border.
It appears that the Turks are indeed now in Syria with vehicles used to clear minefields.
However, I’m absolutely positive that the Kurdish elements of the QSD have not crossed the Euphrates into northwestern Syria. They don’t need to, because the QSD has Arab professional unconventional warriors fighting on their side. I can’t tell you what Turkey is up to; something insane, no doubt. But the Kurds aren’t going to risk a confrontation.
The Battle for Tishreen Dam
Kurdish reporters embedded with the QSD have put out a lot of videos that show the preparations for the assault on Tishreen Dam, but there’s almost no footage of the actual combat. That’s because Arab special forces did the fighting. We saw troops marching to the dam using the buddy system.
Militia don’t pair off and walk far apart. Only professionals do that.
The Kurds on the eastern side of the Euphrates fired at an Islamic State car bomb, and then it was hit by a virtual wall of bullets. Listen to the firing that begins at 1:12.
Another video shows that the car blew up (red arrow).
It was hit by either a shoulder-fired missile or an air-to-surface missile. The QSD was adamant that the US was not involved. I believe them. President Obama is so risk averse that I can’t see him authorizing either ground troops or air power for the operation.
Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve carried out no air strikes at Tishreen Dam.
However, in the video below you hear jet engines, you see a missile strike on the dam powerhouse, and at the end you hear the turboprops of an AC-130 gunship and the bellow of a GAU-7 cannon, the weapon mounted on a Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.
In June of 2015, Boeing sold some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There’s no doubt, since the aircraft providing support to the QSD are camouflaged.
American A-10s—based at Incirlik, Turkey—are light gray.
Here are the holes made by the air-to-surface missiles that hit the dam powerhouse.
Very small. I can’t tell you the munition that made those holes. Something new.
U.S. special operations troops have reportedly taken over an airfield in northeastern Syria, potentially clearing the way to flow more American military support to friendly militias fighting the Islamic State group.
A small team of U.S. troops is setting up a base camp at Rmeilan Air Base in the Syrian Kurdish region near Syria’s Iraqi and Turkish borders, according to local reports. American helicopters operated at the base over the past couple of weeks as local workers expanded the runway, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The airfield was until recently under control of the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the YPG, but was turned over to the U.S. to help expand American support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the loose-knit coalition of American-backed militants fighting the Islamic State group.
I don’t see us flying combat missions out of Rmeilan. But others probably will.
Militiamen didn’t do this
Below is a video taken after the QSD liberated Tishreen Dam. The people who appear on camera are not the ones who fought the battle. I’ll comment only on the physical evidence of fighting that I see.
First, here comes an American Humvee.
The windshield and hood are covered with a tarp painted in a disruptive pattern. Obviously the driver can see through what looks like opaque material; the tarp probably masks the vehicle’s heat signature, making it invisible to night-vision goggles.
Also, the Humvee has no doors. Only special operators remove the doors from their Humvees, the way these Saudis have.
Special operators attack as quickly as possible, often with air cover. Armored doors are only a hindrance. I haven’t been able to find a single photo of a Kurdish Humvee with the doors removed.
A dead Islamic State terrorist, indicating the battle for Tishreen Dam began on the road far from the structure itself.
Below is an area that was strafed by a helicopter gunship. It wasn’t an AH-64 Apache, because the holes are too small for a 30mm cannon. Those are strikes from a .50-caliber machine gun.
The bullets used were high-explosive incendiary/armor-piercing (HEIAP). They’ll ruin your day.
What kind of helicopter has a .50-caliber machine gun with a high rate of fire? Well, there’s an answer to that too! The NorthStar 407MRH, a conversion of the civilian Bell 407 Scout.
See the little flag on the tail? United Arab Emirates. NorthStar Aviation is based in Abu Dhabi. The 407MRH is armed with a GAU-19 .50-caliber machine gun.
Aircraft such as the 407MRH are “light attack helicopters.” They’re easily carried by jet transports capable of landing on dirt.
Inside the Tishreen Dam powerhouse, there was a hell of a close-quarters firefight.
Islamic State terrorists were surprised while having lunch.
There’s no fragmentation damage. Everything you see in the screen grab above was caused by a shock wave. We’ve seen a larger version of this weapon used before.
The Arab militias Jaysh Al-Thuwar, Liwa Al-Tahrir, Shams Al-Shamal, the al-Jazira Brigades, and the Furat Jarabulus Brigades are ones credited with assaulting Tishreen Dam. In about two weeks, they became such good fighters that they were able to take a heavily guarded dam in minutes without suffering a single casualty.
Is that possible? Or might there be another explanation?
Here’s what Turkey told the US when the QSD was formed.
We categorically reject arms and ammunition assistance to the PYD. IS has seized the weapons abandoned by soldiers that fled from Mosul. Weapons given to the PYD will end up in PKK hands. If we determine that these weapons are with the PKK and have entered Turkey, we will carry out operations against the PYD. You have to look a step ahead. For us, this is a national security issue.
“PYD” is the Democratic Union Party, the Syrian arm of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), with which Turkey has been at war since 1984. The YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units) is the armed wing of the PYD and initially made up 85 percent of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Do you think our risk-averse president would deliver arms to the YPG, or do you think Arab professional unconventional warriors are spearheading QSD attacks west of the Euphrates River?
I know what I think.
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