The US-led coalition’s Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said that Islamic State’s (ISIS) militant fighters in Syria’s Raqqa have only one option: surrender or be killed.
“Now, Raqqa is likewise isolated. When we started the assault on the 5th of June, we did not have a complete physical isolation on the ground. But we did have the Euphrates River there that cut off the city to the south. All the bridges are down,” he said about the anti-ISIS efforts by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“All the dams are held by our Syrian partners. And every time we found a boat, we sunk it. So, there was not a good way to get out of Raqqa since the start of the operation,” he told reporters on Tuesday in a press briefing.
However, now SDF forces also physically surround Raqqa city–the de facto capital of ISIS in Syria.
“Now the Syrian Democratic Forces actually linked up on the south side of the city. So, there’s a physical around Raqqa now preventing escape or reinforcement. This is our tactic here. We’re not trying to let anybody out,” he said.
“I already mentioned the surrender offer of some of the remaining fighters in Mosul. There’s no negotiation… if you want to surrender, then come out with your hands up. I think we’ll pursue a similar outcome in Raqqa,” he said. “Their options are to surrender or be killed.”
The city of Raqqa was completely surrounded 37 days after the US-backed SDF troops launched an assault to liberate Raqqa on 5th of June.
“About one week ago, with coalition assistance, the SDF breached into the ancient citadel of Old Raqqa in the central part of the city. We should not forget that ISIS has had more than three years to prepare the defense of Raqqa,” the US Army General said.
“While SDF operations are off to a good start, resistance has been stiffening, and we know this is not going to be an easy fight. We said that about Mosul, but many seem to be surprised when it turned out to be true,” he added.
Furthermore, Gen. Townsend said there will be no need for expanding support for the SDF forces.
“I don’t really think you’ll see a great expansion of our efforts against Raqqa. We already have a very robust effort to support our Syrian partners in their assault on Raqqa,” he said.
“I think what we will probably see, it would be a greater level of resourcing, possibly some more ISR and strike resources. But I don’t think there will be a significant change in the weight of effort. It will become more of a priority now that Mosul is concluded. I think that’s right, being as it’s the global capital of the Islamic State’s caliphate,” he concluded.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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