US-led coalition says current SDF operation aimed to isolate Raqqa, Turkey to play role in long-term plan

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Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clearing a village north of Raqqa after ISIS expulsion. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Erbil – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched the Euphrates Wrath Operation to isolate Raqqa, not to liberate the city yet, the US-led coalition said on Wednesday.

In the meantime, the US army said it will work with Turkey on a long-term plan to liberate Raqqa.

“The Coalition is supporting the SDF by providing air and advise and assist support. The Arab element of the SDF is indigenous to the area and will help establish regional support for SDF operations,” the coalition said in a statement obtained by ARA News.

“The isolation of Raqqa, when complete, will liberate strategically valuable terrain surrounding Raqqa and enable the liberation of the city,” the coalition said. “Ultimately, the liberation of Raqqa will free Syrians to return to a life free from Islamic State’s atrocities and deny ISIS a safe haven to plot external attacks against the West.”

“‎The Syrian Democratic Forces have begun their operation to isolate the city of Raqqa and other ISIS-held territory in Syria. In addition to setting conditions for the ultimate liberation of Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, the operation will also cut off militants from ISIS in Mosul, Iraq,” Combined Joint Task Force – Inherent Resolve Commander, Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said.

“Throughout each phase of the campaign to liberate Raqqa, the Coalition will continually consult with allies and partners as we plan for the city’s ultimate seizure and governance once ISIS is defeated. We are confident that this next phase will continue the momentum that the Coalition and our partners have achieved, and that together we will deliver ISIL a lasting defeat,” he added.

On 6 November, US Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with his counterpart Turkish Army Gen. Hulusi Akar and said that the coalition will work with Turkey for a plan to seize Raqqa city itself.

“The coalition and Turkey will work together on the long-term plan for seizing, holding and governing Raqqa,” Dunford said.

“[The SDF] are moving south to isolate the enemy that’s in the vicinity of Raqqa and in Raqqa,” the general said. “We always advertised that the isolation phase is going to take months.”

As this operation in Syria continues, the United States will continue to work with the Turks and others to determine the make-up of the forces that actually seize Raqqa and hold it and govern it, the chairman said.

“We always knew the SDF wasn’t the solution for holding and governing Raqqa,” Dunford said. “What we are working on right now is to find the right mix of forces for the operation.”

“[The operation needs] a predominantly Arab and Sunni Arab force,” he said. “And there are forces like that. There is the moderate Syrian opposition, the vetted Syrian forces and the Free Syrian Army forces, and there is some initial outreach to forces in Raqqa proper.”

Dunford added that there are now 12,000 plus Arabs within the Kurdish-led SDF. “As we close on Raqqa, we will identify other forces from the area that are willing to support operations there,” he said.

He also praised the SDF “for doing a great job in isolating ISIS inside Syria and limiting the freedom of movement of the enemy fleeing Mosul into Syria.”

Noteworthy SDF factions participating in the Euphrates Wrath Operation include Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), Syriac Military Council, Raqqa Revolutionaries Battalion and Tel Abyad Revolutionary Brigade. These ground forces are being bolstered by the US-led coalition, which is providing air support and advice from US military experts.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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