Battle for Raqqa to start soon, US says Turkey could play role

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A Kurdish unit from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gathers in Afrin city to bid farewell to fellow fighters who have been killed in clashes with ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Damascus – The US-led coalition and its Syrian allies continued on Wednesday to prepare for a major military campaign against Raqqa city, one of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) de facto capitals. 

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said that the plan to isolate Raqqa “would take place soon,” in cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). He added that that talks to determine Turkey’s role in Raqqa would continue “further down the road.”

“We intend to go there soon with the force that is capable of doing that and enveloping the city of Raqqa,” Carter told a press conference on Wednesday. “[Regarding] the final seizure of Raqqa, we continue to talk to Turkey about that and a possible role for Turkey in that.”

The SDF is expected to lead the ground operations against ISIS in Raqqa with air cover being provided by the US-led coalition. A similar strategy was effectively employed during the Manbij and al-Shaddadi offensives. Vast tracks of northern Syria were recovered from ISIS in both operations.

However, Turkey has stressed its opposition to any participation by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allied SDF in the looming Raqqa campaign.

After a meeting with NATO members in Brussels last Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters that his country wouldn’t allow pro-Kurdish forces to join the Raqqa operation.

Syrian Kurdish authorities confirmed that they had been asked to participate in the operation and were ready to isolate Raqqa. Aldar Xelil, a board member of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), said that that the Kurdish YPG and allied SDF were willing to cooperate and were prepared for the Raqqa operation.

However, the TEV-DEM politician said that there was a condition – Kurdish troops will only take part in the operation if Turkey is kept out of it. Xelil summarized their stance, saying that if “Turkey doesn’t join then we will participate. We are ready to save the people of Syria.”

Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi and Abdulhelim Can | Source: ARA News 

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