By Naveed Malekafzali (Twitter)
Raqqah - After an arduous four month battle, the Syrian Democratic Forces, spearheaded by the YPG, have captured the former de facto ISIS capital of Raqqah.
It is a massive victory for the Kurdish-led forces, having been nearly expelled from Aleppo and Raqqah provinces by ISIS forces at the Battle of Kobani in late 2014 and early 2014. A massive comeback, resulting from a massive Coalition air campaign, forced ISIS from the Turkish border in Raqqah province in the summer of 2015 and eventually resulted in ISIS's capital of Raqqah City itself being being besieged by the SDF in June 2017.
In similar fashion to the Battle of Mosul, the SDF was able to capture outer Raqqah City far more easily than the inner Old City, where they became bogged down in nearly house-to-house fighting against ISIS fighters in the last month. By the beginning of October, it was expected that Raqqah would be taken in the next few weeks, a prediction that had made been made at multiple points during the battle's events.
It was also around this time that ISIS stopped issuing media from the media save for radio reports. The last video release from Raqqah was issued on September 29, in a video entitled "And the Best of Responders", and the final photos were released a day later.
The breakthrough that allowed the SDF to finally capture the city was a deal reached with the remaining ISIS fighters surrounded within. All Syrian ISIS fighters would be allowed to leave the city with their families, but foreign fighters could not leave.
With such a large amount of fighters leaving, in addition to the near-insurmountable issues presented by foreign fighters attempting to coordinate with few common languages, the SDF was able to halve ISIS territory in Raqqah in a single day, with the final district of the city falling the day afterwards.
ISIS's new administrative center, after having been moved to Mayadin which was then captured by Syrian government forces, is now in the town of al-Qa'im in Iraq's Anbar province.