With the help of U.S.-led coalition air strikes, a large swath of the strategic town of Ain Issa in Syria, were retaken by Kurdish fighters Tuesday. This came a day after the town was seized by raiding Islamic State forces in its campaign to wrest control of areas controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia.
The town is 50 kilometers north of Raqqa, the stronghold that the Islamic State calls its de facto capital. Ain Issa is located in an intersection of roads that lead to this city and IS-controlled territories in the Syrian Hassakeh and Aleppo provinces, according to UPI.
The spate of fighting Monday triggered intensified drone strikes in Raqqa, where the U.S.-led campaign killed a senior commander of the jihadist group along with at least 78 IS fighters. As the IS forces suffered setbacks, the Kurdish YPG has launched counterattacks that led to Ain Issa's capture.
The Kurdish group is so far the only key Syrian partner in the U.S.-led alliance to address the growing strength of the Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq, Business Insider reported. Earlier in June, YPG managed to seize Tel Abyad, a critical supply point, from IS before it was able to first capture Ain Issa in June 23. Aside from the drone strikes, the U.S. has also been training Syrian forces, as HNGN reported earlier.
U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the intensified campaign Monday when he also noted the advances that IS has made in the conflict.
"As with any military effort, there will be periods of progress but there are also going to be some setbacks, as we've seen with ISIL's gains in Ramadi in Iraq and in central and southern Syria," he said, according to UPI.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter explained that the strategy is to disrupt the militants' capability to counter the YPG advance towards Raqqa, Business Insider reported. Observers on the ground have noted that the U.S. assistance has been helping decimate the IS foothold in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has identified, for example, the casualties sustained by IS and civilians in an ongoing report of the conflict, which includes the fresh clashes between YPG and IS militants in the Abdul Aziz Mountain near Ayn Issa.