This is not a full historical break down of the campaign. As a participant in the event I don’t feel comfortable in doing that. This is just some basic details.
The liberation of the town of Shaddadi in northern Syria was an important step in the war against ISIS. After the Al Hawl Offensive in late 2015 Shaddadi was astride the last all-weather road linking the primary ISIS strongholds of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.
Taking the town would cut this route, greatly complicating the trade and military logistics of the “Islamic State” and impeding them from moving forces across their territory en masse. Shaddadi was also a major slave trading centre, with many of the Yazidi woman captured at Shengal being sold through the town’s slave markets.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a coalition of local militias that had combined to fight ISIS and were supported by an international coalition – planned a two pronged assault that aimed to encircle the town in an attempt to snare as many ISIS fighters as possible. We also hoped to liberate as many captives as possible. Speed was of the essence.
The attack swept over the countryside and by the 20th the SDF were on the outskirts of Shaddadi. We continued to weather attacks from VBIEDs – suicide attackers in truck full of explosives – and mortaring from ISIS forces in the town and surrounding countryside. But by the afternoon of the 24th the town had fallen to the SDF and all that remained was cleaning out the surrounding villages.
The speed of the capture was a surprise. American advisors had thought six weeks would be necessary to capture Shaddadi, whilst ISIS had been making loud propaganda broadcasts stating that the town would never fall. As it was, it took eight days.
Unfortunately, most of the captives and ISIS forces were evacuated before we could complete the encirclement, leaving Shaddadi a ghost town, strewn with discarded equipment. But the SDF then followed up with a rapid advance west, clearing the south of the Abdul Aziz Mountains and laying the grounds for the continued offensives to eradicate the “Islamic State” over the next three years.
Ed Nash has spent years travelling around the world and, on occasion, interfering as he sees fit. He has taught English in remote Indian schools, nearly been struck by lightning on horseback in the mountains of Lesotho and worked with ethnic minorities in Burma. Between June 2015 and July 2016 he volunteered with the Kurdish YPG in its battle against ISIS in Syria. His book on his experiences there, “Desert Sniper”, was published by Little, Brown in September, 2018.