Syrian force says it has enough fighters to take Raqqa from Islamic State 


Syrian force says it has enough fighters to take Raqqa from Islamic State | Reuters



U.S.-backed Syrian militias said on Friday they were strong enough to seize Raqqa from Islamic State with support from the U.S.-led coalition, underlining their opposition to any Turkish role in the planned attack.

The campaign against the city, Islamic State’s Syrian base of operations, is gathering pace as Iraqi forces press ahead with their efforts to recapture Mosul, the jihadists’ base in Iraq. The overlapping U.S.-backed campaigns threaten to deal Islamic State (IS) a double blow.

Iraqi state TV said about half of western Mosul had been taken. Iraqi forces dislodged the militants from the eastern part of Mosul in January, after 100 days of fighting to reclaim the city seized by the jihadist group in 2014.

The Raqqa campaign received a boost in recent days with the deployment of a U.S. Marines artillery unit, adding to the several hundred U.S. special forces already in Syria supporting the operation backed by air strikes from the U.S.-led coalition.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, the main U.S. partner in Syria, this week cut the road from Raqqa to Islamic State’s stronghold in Deir al-Zor – the last main road out of Raqqa, and declared it would reach the city limits within a few weeks.

NATO member Turkey is deeply concerned by the influential role of the Kurdish YPG militia in the SDF, and is pressing Washington to take part in the operation itself. Turkey views the YPG as a threat to its national security.

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