US-led coalition spokesman confirms training of Arab fighters to join battle for Raqqa

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Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gathering in Hasakah countryside in preparation for combating ISIS. File photo

ARA News

QAMISHLO – US-led coalition spokesman Colonel Steve Warren on Wednesday confirmed that a group of 200 Arab fighters is being trained by the US for future operations in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Recently, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that the battle for Raqqa would begin soon.

Coalition spokesman Warren refused to confirm if the YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units and leading member of SDF] has political motivations to connect the cantons from Kobane until Afrin in northern Syria, but said their focus is to defeat ISIS in Raqqa and Mosul.

“I don’t know what their political motivations are. Our focus is to provide advice and assistance to the Syrian Democratic Forces and to help them get better as they continue to pressure Raqqa,” he said.  

“That’s, you know, recall the secretary of defense several months ago, you know, told us look at the map and see Raqqa and Mosul as the two centers of gravity, the two keys to unlocking all of this,” he added.

The US colonel said that they would keep their focus on both sides.

Moreover, he said that the SDF has just now graduated an additional class of 200 Arab fighters who are going to join the Syrian-Arab Coalition (SAC).  

The US has two air strips in Syria northern Kurdish region, one in Kobane and another in Rumen. Moreover, the US forces have a training base where they train Arab fighters of the SAC, and the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“We call it the SAC. So, the SAC is continuing to gain strength, it’s continuing to grow, and we’ll continue to build up in posture for an eventual move against Raqqa.  That’s what our focus is,” Warren said.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo previously told ARA News that so far no SDF forces were trained by the US-coalition.

“Right now there is only coordination with airstrikes and there are some officers that give advices and recommendations,” he said.

“So far, there is no training. The only training is by the SDF themselves and clear for everyone in the SDF camp in a village near al-Hasakah,” the SDF official spokesman told ARA News.

Speaking to ARA News, Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, said the US wants to build parallel anti-ISIS coalitions to the Syrian Democratic Forces. “That is why [250] US Army Green Berets are being deployed to northeastern Syria,” he said.

“The United States military is utilizing areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria as a beachhead to expand the training and advising of local militia forces against ISIS. It is possible, but unlikely, that training is being done inside of northeastern Syria without the Syrian Democratic Forces being aware of it,” he said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News 

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