Anti-ISIS battle for Raqqa to start soon, US says Turkey could play role

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A Kurdish unit from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gathers in Afrin city to bid farewell to fellow fighters who have been killed in clashes with ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Damascus The US-led coalition and local allies continued on Wednesday their preparations for a major military campaign against the Islamic State’s (ISIS) capital of Raqqa, in northeast Syria. 

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the plan to isolate Raqqa “would take place soon” with the forces available, adding that talks continued with Turkey on the role it could play “further down the road.”

“We intend to go there soon with the force that is capable of doing that and enveloping the city of Raqqa … the final seizure of Raqqa, we continue to talk to Turkey about that and a possible role for Turkey in that further down the road,” Carter told a press conference on Wednesday.

Kurdish-Arab alliance of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is expected to lead the ground operations against ISIS in Raqqa with an air cover from the US-led coalition. A similar strategy has been used earlier by the SDF and the coalition, and led to the liberation of large areas in northern Syria from ISIS.

However, Turkey has stressed its opposition to any participation by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the looming battle for Raqqa.

After a meeting with NATO members in Brussels last Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters that his country wouldn’t allow pro-Kurdish forces to join the Raqqa operation.

Syrian Kurdish authorities confirmed that they had been asked to participate in the operation and were ready to isolate the Islamic State’s (ISIS) capital.

Aldar Xelil, a board member of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), also confirmed that that the Kurdish YPG and allied SDF were prepared for the Raqqa operation.

However, the TEV-DEM politician said that there was a condition – Kurdish troops will only take part in the operation if Turkey is kept out of it. Xelil said: “If Turkey doesn’t join then we will participate. We are ready to save the people of Syria.”

Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi and Abdulhelim Can | Source: ARA News 

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