Global Independent Analytics

US Allied Forces Launch Operation to Liberate Raqqa

“We’re launching this campaign with the help of coalition forces in northern Raqqa”

Voice of America reporting: The dazzling advance over the course of last months in the process of defeating the Islamic State has allowed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to launch an operation to recapture the city of Raqqa.

Raqqa is one of the biggest northern cities in Syria and the de-facto capital of the Islamic State in the country.

“We’re launching this campaign with the help of coalition forces in northern Raqqa,” said Rojda Felat, a female Kurdish commander of SDF in a public video.

This would be a coordinated effort with Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which tanks and other heavy weaponry have been already deployed close to the northern areas of city to support the attack from three fronts.

“The SDF has announced they have begun operations to liberate the countryside north of Raqqa. We have always been focused evicting Da'esh (Islamic State) from Raqqa and we will continue to support the SDF as they conduct ground operations to further isolate the city,” said Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS.

Another ally in the upcoming advance could be Russia, which foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, during a visit to Uzbekistan, said Moscow is ready to assist and coordinate efforts with the Kurds and the coalition to liberate Raqqa.

However any notion of possible coordination with Russia was rejected by Col. Warren outright.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. focus with Russia right now is on restoring Syria's fragile cessation of hostilities and that the two countries were discussing proposals that could help strengthen and sustain the cease-fire.

"We believe that with our support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, that we can effectively put pressure on Raqqa, acting with the coalition,” Toner said.

However optimistic the potential outcome might look now, there are some who call to tamper the expectations, citing the several facts that do not work in the coalition and allies’ favor.

One European diplomat told VOA that the plan currently is to try to only encircle much of the city of Raqqa, at least to take outlying villages north, west and south.

“The Arab fighters are not sufficient in numbers, nor do they have the capabilities to take on the hardened IS fighters defending the city,” he said. “And the Kurds can’t be in the vanguard in capturing Raqqa.”

He puts the numbers of Sunni Arab fighters in the SDF lower than 5,000.

The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there are an estimated 185,000 civilians left in Raqqa — out of an original population of 400,000.

In Washington, U.S. Senator John McCain told VOA's Azerbaijani Service that the push to retake Raqqa will be a "very difficult" undertaking.

"It is going to take a very big and important effort. ISIL, or Daesh, will not go down easy. They will fight to retain their territorial capital," McCain said.

Congressman Adam Schiff said he believes it will take time before there is a real push to retake Raqqa.

"But they are losing ground all around Raqqa,” he said. “And I think there is a beginning sense of siege for ISIL forces in Raqqa. They sense their days are numbered."

By Stefan Paraber for GIA

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