US will provide air support in Raqqa battle

Laura Christensen
November 7, 2016

Washington has agreed that Turkey will not participate in the fight to re-take Raqqa.

She said the campaign bore the name "Wrath of the Euphrates". They are recognized by the U.S.as one of the most effective fighting forces against IS and have captured large swaths of northeastern Syria from the extremists. The group has been overseeing civilian life in the city including bakeries, banks, schools and mosques.

"As in Mosul, the fight will not be easy and there is hard work ahead, but it is necessary to end the fiction of ISIL's caliphate and disrupt the group's ability to carry out terror attacks against the United States, our allies and our partners", Carter said in a statement.

A climactic battle to retake Mosul in northern Iraq began in mid-October, and is progressing more rapidly than anticipated even as Islamic fighters use scores of vehicle bombs to halt the advance of Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi military units.

But the prominence within SDF ranks of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, has raised questions over its suitability as a force to capture the predominantly Arab city. Before it fell to those groups, Raqqa had 220,000 residents and hosted tens of thousands of displaced Syrians.

Turkey's defense minister suggested last week that instead of the Kurds, Turkish-backed forces can present an "alternative". Turkish officials including President Recep Tayip Erdogan have said they will not accept a role for the Kurds in the liberation of Raqqa.

"Our hope is that the Turkish state will not interfere in the internal affairs of Syria", said an unidentified SDF official at Sunday's press conference.

The U.S. wants all of its allies to set aside their grievances, at least temporarily, and focus on IS, but a series of visits by top officials in recent weeks has yielded no major breakthroughs.

Turkey views the PYD as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast, and often speaks of the PYD and IS as similar threats.

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There was no immediate comment from Turkey or the USA on the Kurdish announcement. This would force the Kurds to stop their campaign toward Raqqa to protect their areas, he said.

Another SDF official, Rezan Hiddo, said Turkey has been an "obstacle" to the Raqqa campaign all along. Ankara has stressed that the Kurds' main militia should not be involved at all in the Raqqa offensive if the USA wants Turkey's contribution.

He said the SDF has informed the global coalition that Turkey could spoil the campaign if it decides to strike at Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

SDF spokesman Talal Sillo told The Associated Press the Raqqa campaign will occur on several fronts.

"We can not extinguish the fire in our neighbor's house if our home is burning", he added.

"[The operation] will start by taking Raqqa countryside and then the goal is the city".

An attack on Raqqa has been long expected, with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter saying on October 25 that the battle to retake it would "overlap" with the assault on Mosul.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of anti-IS coalition forces, said last week more Syrian opposition fighters need to be recruited, trained and equipped for the Raqqa battle.

In a statement, the US-led task force carrying out Operation Inherent Resolve to defeat ISIS acknowledged the offensive had been launched and said it continued its support the SDF.

Other reports by My Hot News

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