Colonel Ryan Dillon, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman, said that ISIS resistance is increasing, while the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue the fight in Raqqa.
“In the first two weeks, there was significant progress — very quick progress that was made,” he said.
However, he said that now there is more significant resistance by ISIS militants in Raqqa.
“The SDF in the advance have since hit some significant resistance from ISIS. And now we are starting to see some of these, you know, better-emplaced defenses as we have gotten to the places where we have advanced to in the campaign in and around Raqqa,” Col. Dillon told a press conference on Saturday.
“Our partnered force in Raqqa, the Syrian Democratic Forces, are in their third week of offensive operations to unseat terrorist fights from ISIS’ de facto capital. The SDF have taken 45 square kilometers of ground from ISIS, in and around Raqqa, this past week. The SDF continue to fight along with three axes towards the center of Raqqa against substantial ISIS resistance,” he stated.
Moreover, the coalition spokesperson said that it’s still unclear where the US-led coalition will fight next after Raqqa is liberated.
“Once we call the liberation, or once Raqqa has been liberated, then we have to see, then, where else is there to go, where else is there ISIS-held territory,” he said.
“Right now, we know that ISIS-held territory is along the middle Euphrates river valley. But is that going to, you know, still be true at the end of the fight in Raqqa? We’re going to have to see that. We’re three weeks into Raqqa right now. And we’ve made significant process. But we know that there’s still a difficult fight ahead,” Colonel Dillon.
The official added that it’s possible they will continue to combat ISIS along the Euphrates river valley.
“So we will have to evaluate and see where ISIS still holds territory after the fight of Raqqa. Clearly, right now, that’s along the middle Euphrates river valley. We will continue to strike resources and leaders throughout that middle Euphrates river valley — in Mayadin, Abu Kamal, Al-Qaim,” he said.
“So, again, we’re going to have to see where things go after Raqqa. We’ll see where the regime is at that point, and if they are in fact making an effort to defeat ISIS in those ISIS-held territories,” he added.
The coalition official further said the US is pushing for local governance in northern Syria, although he couldn’t predict what the Syrian regime or SDF will do after Raqqa is liberated.
“I know that we are consistently pushing towards local governance, which is the, you know, the councils and the security forces that liberate areas from ISIS, are representative and responsive to the people in those areas,” he said.
However, a US state department spokesperson said it’s unclear yet what the post-ISIS plan is.
“So we aren’t completely there yet. The fight for Raqqa is still underway and still taking place. The United States will never determine who will take control or take charge in terms of its government. That will be up for the Syrian people to decide,” US state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said last Thursday.
Moreover, she refused to answer if the US will continue to support the SDF after ISIS is defeated in Raqqa.
“The SDF has been an effective fighting force, and we see the SDF as the best force to take back control over Raqqa, for example. And we’ve worked with them closely, certainly, in that arena. And they’ve done a very good job. But beyond that, I’m not going to characterize or get into hypotheticals about the future,” she said.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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