On March 21, 2017, the Syrian Democratic Forces, with the support of the international coalition, carried out an airdrop operation on the west bank of the Euphrates River in al-Tabqa western countryside with the aim of liberating this strategic city that includes the Euphrates Dam, the largest dam in Syria, from ISIS organization that announced the so-called the caliphate on June 29, 2014 and chose the city of al-Raqqa as its capital after it had completely controlled it in January 2014.
Al-Tabqa has a strategic dimension and sensitive geolocation
Al-Tabqa city has a strategic dimension due to its distinguished geographical location. It is located in the western wing of the Fertile Crescent in the center, and to the north of the Syrian map on the right bank of the Euphrates River which traverses it from the northwestern side, forming an artificial lake of an area of 525 km2 behind the Euphrates Dam.
It is in the middle of the cities of Aleppo and al-Raqqa, as it is considered the crossroads between northern Syria and the Syrian depth to the capital Damascus, as well as its southern extension in al-Sham Badia.
The liberation of this city from ISIS meant that the latter was receiving painful blows, losing the crossing point between the west and east of the Euphrates and breaking the first line of defense for the so-called "the capital of the caliphate", as al-Tabqa is considered to al-Raqqa the western entrance overseeing the depth of the west and south of Syria, in addition to its important location on the international road (Aleppo, al-Raqqa, Baghdad) and its proximity to al-Tabqa Military Airport, one of the largest military airports in Syria.
Demographic change in order to resettle foreign mercenaries
Al-Tabqa city was subjected to a process of demographic change unprecedented in its history after the control of ISIS mercenaries, as ISIS began from its earliest days of its control, targeting various components of the region with forced displacement and carrying out dozens of executions according to flimsy fatwas that split thousands of the people from the region since it fell at its hands on January 12, 2014.
All of those executions which affected the Christians, Shiites, Ismailis, Kurds, and those who opposed them of Arabs led to a change in population diversity which has long distinguished the city of al-Tabqa over decades.
The ugliness and injustice of that period blew up all the rules of coexistence, and earned the city the character of the one spectrum. Blurring cultural identity and civilizational heritage is a cornerstone of ISIS' principles for establishing its state on the rubble of the areas it controlled, imposing its extreme cultural and intellectual vision.
Against the background of all of this, ISIS began to resettle thousands of its mercenaries who had flocked from all parts of the world into the homes of those whom they abandoned and deported outside their city. In this geographically small city, the mercenaries have been occupying more than half of the city's residents, and those who remained were those who have not had the means to escape and survive their oppression.
For a year and a half, the city has been controlled by the Asian mercenaries (Uzbekistan, Turkestan and Uighurs) and those coming from Georgia, Chechnya and Dagestan. Then, the hegemony turned to Tunisian mercenaries who turned the city's residents into victims of complex conflicts between Tunisians and foreign mercenaries, paying painful costs; death and displacement.
Regional ambitions in the region
Due to the strategic importance of al-Tabqa city, the Syrian regime wanted with Iranian and Russian support to control it, so in the summer of 2016, it tried to control the city from the southern axis, while this attempt failed after it has been inflicted heavy losses at the hands of ISIS in vague and mysterious military conditions that pushed the attacking forces to withdraw to the launch point after 72 hours, losing hundreds of its members in mid-August of the same year.
With the beginning of 2017, the Syrian regime launched with Russian-Iranian support a large-scale military operation in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, in which it controlled the towns of Deir Hafer and Maskana in light of the unexpected withdrawals of ISIS mercenaries, and thus became on the administrative borders of al-Tabqa region.
At a time when the Turkish state was providing support to ISIS in order to fight the Kurds, it was experiencing great anxiety and was concerned about the fate of ISIS, especially after the significant advances made by the Syrian Democratic Forces during the Wrath of Euphrates campaign that began on the sixth of November 2016.
How al-Tabqa has been liberated?
In light of the difficult regional circumstances and challenges, SDF launched a military operation on March 21, 2017, and after 50 days of heroic fighting, the fighters have achieved a historic victory, putting an end to a black era that started with the mercenaries of the so-called Free Army, getting to the mercenaries of ISIS.
On March 21 and with the support of the international coalition, these forces carried out an airdrop on the west bank of the Euphrates River in al-Tabqa countryside, and after 4 days, al-Tabqa-Damascus international road and the Aleppo-Raqqa road were cut off.
On March 26, SDF tightened control of al-Tabqa Military Airport, south of the city. The next day, SDF suspended the operation 4 hours from the northern side of the city, that is at the Euphrates Dam in order to enter a number of engineers and supervisors into the dam's body.
On March 31, al-Safsafa village, adjacent to al-Tabqa city from the eastern side was liberated, so that the blockade was fully applied to the city. After which the SDF entered into direct clashes inside the city and lasted until May 10 to announce on this day that the city of al-Tabqa was completely liberated and blockade was imposed on the north and west sides of al-Raqqa.
Since its establishment in the seventies of the last century to the present day, al-Tabqa city has been still known as "Little Syria". In this small city, you find a social fabric formed by tens of thousands of people who come from all Syrian cities and towns. All of these elements have become a fundamental pillar in the implementation of the democratic nation’s project which restored social and political balance to the region after its liberation.
The Euphrates Dam has made al-Tabqa of great importance
The importance of al-Tabqa city stems from the fact that it embraces this dam, in which work began in 1968 and ended after 5 years, holding a lake with a length of about 80 km, and a vicinity of 200 km with a storage volume of 14.1 billion cubic meters, and from which water channels are branched to irrigate hundreds of thousands hectares of agricultural lands.
The dam also generates a large electric energy of 2.5 billion kilowatts annually, which was supplied to large areas in Syria, as the Euphrates Dam was one of the most important energy sources in Syria before the establishment of other sources in the last two decades of the last century and the beginnings of the new millennium.
In conjunction with the approach of the Euphrates’ Wrath campaign led by the Syrian Democratic Forces to al-Tabqa city and its countryside, ISIS mercenaries turned the dam into a military arsenal, and when they realized that the liberation of the dam was inevitable, they destroyed the eight generating groups, which led to a complete power cut, in addition to burning electricity transfer laboratories, immersing control rooms that include compensation compressor devices and the generation set that have been completed (raised) level from 232 to 250, equivalent to 18 meters, in addition to making the dam a minefield according to several statements of the general administration of the dam.
After nearly 3 years of hard work, workers in the Euphrates Dam managed to make great achievements, and repaired more than 50 percent of the dam. According to one of the dam’s supervisors, the engineer Ahmed Oso, 4 generating sets have been introduced into the service field at a capacity of 400 MW, while two groups are still under maintenance and repair. The remaining two groups will remain out of service because they cannot be repaired, and they need to be replaced by the manufacturer exclusively.
With these achievements which were described as a miracle, the Euphrates Dam today provides electricity to the cities of al-Tabqa and al-Raqqa and their countryside, along with a number of cities of the Syrian Jazeera, and provides irrigation water for more than 650,000 hectares of agricultural lands along both sides of the Euphrates River and behind the dam.