SDF have driven ISIS out of Tabqa, east of Raqqa

The battle for Tabqa is almost over. The intensive battle for the city began when the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) made a surprise push across the banks of the Euphrates River, and captured the Tabqa Airbase, in what has been described as a significant symbolic and strategic blow for ISIS.

The SDF has since slowly crept to encircle ISIS on all fronts, and now finally drove ISIS militants out of most of the city. Although most reports suggest the city is now under complete SDF control, there are reports of small holdouts around the city, particularly near the Tabqa Dam.

The successful capture of the city not only shuts the door on more ISIS oppression but also boosts the morale in the fight against ISIS militants. SDF fighters have learnt many lessons from this offensive and will use what they have learnt for their major battle against ISIS in Raqqa, which is located 40km west of the city.

The liberation of Tabqa City from ISIS represents the second field of combat against ISIS whose only prior urban combat experience comes from Manbij. Unlike Manbij, Tabqa is an Arab-majority city where ISIS has been heavily entrenched and has, so far, put up fierce resistance. With the challenges of Raqqa City still ahead, the SDF fighters – consisting of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Armenian, Chechen, Circassian and Assyrian denominations – will need to ensure that they learn the right lessons from Tabqa for the battles ahead.

The next challenge for the local authorities is to now rebuild and rehouse the displaced citizens of Tabqa. Many parallels can be draw from the post-war reconstruction efforts in East Mosul. The sense of victory can, at least for now, provide comfort and confidence for the Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Syria.