Erbil – Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander of the international coalition against ISIS, said on Wednesday that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are leading the operation to isolate Raqqa, and Turkey is not involved.
So far, the SDF have liberated over 700 kilometers from ISIS near Raqqa.
“Of course we’ll continue to work with Turkey and with our other partners, and we will find the most effective force to retake Raqqa, and we are open to options for that. But in terms of isolating the city, that will be the SDF supported by the coalition, but I’ll just say we will continue dialog in terms of what force might be able to help with retaking Raqqa in a timely manner,” Jones said.
“So, at the moment the isolation force is the coalition supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces. There will be a continuing dialogue with Turkey and indeed with other interested parties to decide on what force is best placed to retake Raqqa,” he added.
Moreover, the coalition general said the SDF are getting closer to Raqqa.
“The Syrian Democratic Forces have recaptured well over 700 square kilometers of terrain from Daesh [ISIS], and now continue planning the next phase of the isolation of Raqqa. They’re now less than 30 kilometers from the city and have encountered light to moderate resistance as they continue clearing villages along the axis of advance,” the coalition’s Major General said.
“As they [Kurdish-led SDF] advance, they continue to find certain Syrian Arab volunteers who are either from Raqqa or areas that have been recently liberated,” Jones said. “As they liberate cities and villages, they set up local councils to reestablish governance and maintain security. This is the same formula the SDF successfully used to liberate and reestablish governance in Manbij, Hasakah and other areas.”
Meanwhile, the US-led coalition continued to arm and support the Syrian Democratic Forces with airstrikes.
“As the SDF continue their isolation effort, they have been taking a deliberate approach, back-clearing the areas they control to reduce the ability of Daesh [ISIS] to re-infiltrate or attack using sleeper cells. The coalition continues supporting their operations with air strikes, having delivered more than 600 munitions onto enemy targets,” he said.
“These strikes have destroyed vehicle-borne improved explosive devices, fighting positions, vehicles, and eliminated Daesh tactical units — the fighters they use to intimidate and maintain control over the population,” he stated.
The deputy commander praised the capabilities of the SDF forces.
“The SDF continues to prove that they are quite capable of defeating Daesh wherever they encounter them on the battlefield,” he stated, using another acronym for ISIS.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook suggested that the SDF has finished the first phase of its drive towards Raqqa.
“The coalition continues to provide critical support to our partner forces in Syria and in Iraq, especially through the air, as we maintain maximum pressure on ISIS,” he said.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News