Advertisement

ITV News exclusive: As Britain votes on Syria airstrikes, we go on the road to Raqqa with the Kurdish YPG

Warning: This report contains footage some people may find distressing

Writing ahead of MPs' decision to back airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State in Syria, ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine has been with Kurdish YPG forces in Syria as they continue their fight against the militants.

Our host, a Syrian Kurdish frontline commander, hopes the RAF will soon join the fight here.

“It would be great because Daesh (Islamic State) is the enemy of all civilised people.”

We were talking as one of his men took the controls of a digger to bury the bodies of twelve IS fighters killed earlier in the day.

A discarded suicide vest worn by an IS militant lies discarded Credit: Sean Swan/ITV News

The Islamists had used the cover of early morning fog to mount a sneak attack on the Kurds furthest flung outpost, just thirty miles short of Raqqa.

But a look-out spotted them in the mist and all of them were shot dead. Two were wearing suicide vests. Most appeared to be teenagers.

We’ve been with Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG, for several days.

Watch: John Irvine reports from the very limit of the Kurdish advance:

We’ve been trying to gauge the effect coalition airstrikes have had on their war with the Islamic State.

Much of the debate in the UK has focused on the limits of air power. And while jets might not be able to liberate well-defended strongholds like Raqqa and Mosul, they have paved the way for significant advances across the plains dotted with villages that make up most of this area.

During an offensive that began just before the Paris attacks and lasted three weeks, the YPG took more than 200 villages and towns from IS thanks largely to air strikes.

Coalition airstrikes are denying IS large portions of territory outside of urban areas. Credit: Sean Swan/ITV News

Be in no doubt, the self-proclaimed caliphate has been shrinking.

At Westminster MPs want the government to provide a credible strategy.

Everyone wants to look far ahead because they blame the absence of a post-Saddam plan for the catastrophe Iraq became after the 2003 invasion.

Downing Street says there are 70,000 “moderate fighters” willing to take on IS.

Women are a key part of Kurdish YPG forces. Credit: Sean Swan/ITV News

The reality is that only the Kurdish YPG are engaged in an all-out war with the Islamists.

The Kurdish forces include women fighters.

The YPG is the polar opposite of IS. Instead of enslaving women, the Kurds empower them. They are secular people who believe in a free society.

If the RAF does soon start bombing IS targets in Syria it will be helping people who admire us and hurting people who hate us.

A Kurdish commander talks to ITV News about proposed RAF strikes. Credit: Sean Swan/ITV News

More on this story