Informed sources told ARA News on Sunday that the operation to enter the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is expected to start soon.
“This one will be for the entire city not the villages and the nearby areas. Maybe in 24 hours,” said Kurdish journalist Can Mirzo.
Sipan Hamo, commander of the SDF-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG), said the operation would end sooner than expected.
The battle for Raqqa city will be completed within a few weeks, according to Hamo.
The YPG leader said the operation was expected to be launched in early April.
However an anonymous US government official told ARA News that it seems the SDF is still isolating Raqqa and not entering the Raqqa city yet.
On 16 March, more US vehicles arrived to northern Syria through the KRG border in Fish Khabour.
The Pentagon last week announced that an additional 500 heavily armed US marines were sent to Syria. As a result, there are nearly 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground now in support of SDF forces.
“More of American vehicles come from Iraqi Kurdistan to Rojava /Northern Syria to join Raqqa battle,” said Mohammed Hassan, a local journalist.
In the meantime, the US anti-ISIS coalition spokesperson Air Force Col John L. Dorrian said that the SDF is a multi-ethnic coalition and that the SDF force of Raqqa will be 75 per cent Arab.
“SDF are a multi-ethnic & multi-sectarian organization, and that is one of the reasons why we’re working with them,” Col. Dorrian said. “About 75% of the force isolating #Raqqa is Syrian Arab, & that’s demographically consistent w/ what you would find in that area.”
Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News that the campaign could take a few weeks or months depending on the air campaign.
“Two weeks would mean a robust, destructive Coalition air campaign. Leveling neighborhoods type of destruction,” he said.
“If the Coalition is bringing Apache attack helicopters into the fight for Raqqa, that means an intense level of close air support for SDF fighters. It would be a Fallujah in 2004 type operation,” Heras added.
“The Coalition dropping a new wave of leaflets on Raqqa warning the local population about heavy airstrikes would indicate that the under Trump, the operation to seize Raqqa is going to be very aggressive, very quickly. It will likely have a higher tolerance for civilian casualties, particularly if ISIS is putting up a fierce defense in residential areas of the city,” he told ARA News.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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