ISIS capital Raqqa to be isolated in weeks: US official

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Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in western Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

A US-led coalition spokesperson said that soon the isolation phase of the Raqqa operation will be finished. This while a top US general recently told AP that both the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns will be concluded within six months.

On 4 February, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the launch of the third phase of Euphrates Wrath Operation in Raqqa, a campaign aimed at isolating the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group in its de facto capital.

“Well, we continue working on the isolation phase to approach the city. This is a key part of the campaign. We’re working that with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition,” Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition, told reporters on Wednesday.

“Raqqa is a city that the enemy uses for external operations, so what we would expect is that within the next few weeks, the city will be nearly completely isolated and then there will be a decision point to move in,” he added.

“We’re not gonna give the exact timing of the effort to seize the city, but we do believe that excellent progress is being made and we’ll continue to pressure the enemy on multiple fronts,” he said.

Moreover, the coalition spokesperson said that ISIS is under pressure on multiple fronts both in Syria and Iraq.

“One of the key points here is that as Raqqa is being isolated, the enemy’s also under pressure in al-Bab. They’re also under pressure from regime and Russian forces in Dayr az Zawr and other areas around Syria. They’re completely surrounded in Mosul. So what we see is the enemy being overwhelmed anywhere that they are. It’s too many problems for them to solve at any given time,” he said.

So far, the SDF forces are facing light resistance from ISIS in Raqqa.

“In the most recent phase of the operation, they [SDF] have encountered light to moderate resistance as enemy command and control struggles to deal with multiple ongoing operations simultaneously,” he added.

“Around Raqqa, coalition strikes continue taking a toll on the enemy capacity as strikes remove enemy fighters and resources. Recent targets include tunnels, weapons caches, command and control nodes, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices,” he concluded.

On Tuesday 7 February, the Syrian Democratic Forces with their Syrian Arab Coalition partners, cleared 63 square kilometers of territory northeast of Raqqa, for a total of 3,410 square kilometers of territory liberated from ISIS control since they launched their operation to isolate Raqqa on November 6th, 2016.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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