Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, Commanding General of CJTF-OIR, said in a statement that the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but the offensive would deliver a decisive blow to the idea of ISIS as a physical caliphate.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” the US-led coalition’s General said.
“We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England,” said Townsend. “ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq and Syria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) partners launched the offensive to unseat ISIS from its so-called “capital” of Raqqa in northern Syria, June 6.
“ The SAC and SDF began marching on Raqqa in November and have been rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in Coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqa,” the coalition official said.
“The multi-ethnic SDF is the [US-led] Coalition’s local ground force partner in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria and they have proven themselves in Manbij, Tabqa and countless other towns and villages across northwest Syria over the past two years,” he added.
The Coalition says they will continue to support the SAC and SDF during their Raqqa offensive as part of their ‘advise and assist’ mission, providing equipment, training, Intelligence and logistics support, precision fires, and battlefield advice.
“The International Coalition and our partner forces are steadily dismantling the physical caliphate of ISIS,” said Townsend. “Once ISIS is defeated in both Mosul and Raqqa, there will still be a lot of hard fighting ahead, but this Coalition is strong and committed to the complete annihilation of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.”
According to the US-led coalition, the SDF have encouraged civilians to depart Raqqa so that they do not become trapped, used as human shields or become targets for ISIS snipers.
Once Raqqa is liberated, the SDF have stated it will be turned over to a representative body of local civilians who will provide security and governance.
In Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to make steady gains in brutal, close-quarters urban combat against ISIS on the West side of Mosul.
“The Coalition wants the Raqqa operation to be careful and phased, to reduce SDF casualties,” Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News.
“It is also important to remember that the Raqqa operation will advance in stages, each stage carefully capturing areas closer and closer to Raqqa until entering the city and conquering it district by district,” Heras said.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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