Kurdish-led Syrian forces, with the support of the United States, announced Sunday that they had begun a military campaign to retake the city of Raqqa, Syria; the Islamic State de facto capital.
The coalition asked civilians to stay away from IS fighters because they are now targeted by their forces. The retake of the city could face military opposition from Turkey because Kurds are involved. The Syrian Democratic Forces is the name of the Kurd-Arab coalition that wants to fight IS in Raqqa. The group made public their intentions to retake the city and faced IS forces fFrom a news conference in Ein Issa, north of Raqqa.
Only senior commanders and representatives attended the press conference, and the announcements were made by Cihan Ehmed, and SDF fighter, who read a statement.
Cihan Ehmed said that 30,000 fighters -the Euphrates Rage- will be part of the military campaign against the Islamic State in Raqqa. She added that joint operations command had been created to coordinate various operations on all fronts.
“We call on our heroic steadfast people in Raqqa and surrounding areas to stay away from enemy gatherings which will be a target for the liberating forces and the coalition forces, and to head to areas that will be liberated,” said Ehmed.
The announcement did not specify how the SDF is going to oust IS troops from Raqqa and how they are going to protect the nearly 200,000 mostly Sunni Muslims living in the city. Raqqa has an estimated of 5,000 IS militants, and they could use civilians as human shields as they have done in the past and the current retake of the city of Mosul in Iraq.
Another military operation, also backed by the United States, is the retaking the city of Mosul, the last IS-held city in Iraq. The city has been under the control of IS since 2014, and since October 17, Iraqi forces have approached the city fighting IS militant in the towns surrounding Mosul. But IS fighters have used civilians to protect themselves while fleeing to the center of the city and a similar scenario could be seen in Raqqa.
The retake of Raqqa could be facing military opposition from the Turkish government
There are concerns regarding the military campaign that seeks to expel IS forces from Raqqa because Turkey considers the SDF as terrorists. The Syria Democratic Forces group is mostly dominated by Syrian Kurdish soldiers known as the People’s Protection Units, an organization that Turkey considers to be linked to the country’s outlawed Kurdish group, The New York Times report.
Even President Recep Tayip Erdogan, governing Turkey, have stated that he will not accept the participation of Kurds in the liberation of Raqqa. Turkey’s defense minister suggested last week that his country could offer an alternative to the Kurds forces.
The U.S. considers the YPG the most effective force against IS and the campaign that seeks to retake the city from the terrorist group. American officials, despite Turkey’s opinions on the team, have made it clear that the Kurds will be a major part of the Raqqa offensive.
Kurdish officials have expressed that they reject any Turkey action in the taking of Raqqa or its opposition forces inside Syria. They suggested that SDF forces would defend themselves if they faced any opposition from Turks.
Source: The New York Times