As the battle to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the control of the ISIS intensifies, we have news coming in of another battle that has been launched in another part of the Middle East. According to CNN, U.S. backed militants groups in Syria on Sunday launched an operation to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa from the clutches of the ISIS. Raqqa has been serving as the de-facto capital of the ISIS ever since it fell to them back in 2013.
In a statement issued on Sunday, a representative of The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed that they have set up a joint operations center on Saturday night, from where multiple militia groups will coordinate their fight against ISIS fighters in Raqqa. The operation has been named “Euphrates Rage” – after the Euphrates river that passes through the city. The group of U.S backed fighters includes Arab, Kurdish, and Turkish militias.
Brig. Gen. Talal Ali Selo, the spokesman for the SDF in an interview to the CNN confirmed the launch of Operation “Euphrates Rage.”
“We are starting an operation to liberate Raqqa from ISIS. The operation will be done with American aerial cover.”
He also divulged the plan of action without going into much detail.
“The operation will start by taking Raqqa countryside and then the goal is the city,” Selo added.
Meanwhile, U.S. military officials have confirmed the development, with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter welcoming the announcement while adding that it had become necessary “to free Raqqa from ISIL’s barbaric grip.”
In a statement issued by his office, Ash Carter is quoted saying;
“The effort to isolate, and ultimately liberate, Raqqa marks the next step in our coalition campaign plan. As in Mosul, the fight will not be easy and there is hard work ahead, but it is necessary to end the fiction of ISIL’s caliphate and disrupt the group’s ability to carry out terror attacks against the United States, our allies and our partners. The international coalition will continue to do what we can to enable local forces in both Iraq and Syria to deliver ISIL the lasting defeat it deserves,”
In addition to the Defense Secretary, the U.S. led task force carrying out Operation Inherent Resolve against the ISIS also welcomed the move and promised all support to the SDF. They issued a statement as well which read;
“As the fight against Da’esh in Iraq progresses, the coalition continues to work with our allies, our partners and coalition members to refine the military plan for the isolation and eventual liberation of Raqqah,”
They also revealed that the operation to free Raqqa would be accomplished in several phases.
“The first phase will be to isolate Raqqah. The SDF is the partner force most capable of acting soon to isolate Raqqah and commenced movement toward Raqqah on 5 November. We are clear-eyed about the challenges that this complex environment creates, but the need to isolate Raqqah quickly demands the coalition act soon.”
The news of the operation against the ISIS in Raqqa was an expected move because Carter had in the past revealed that the operations to liberate Mosul and Raqqa could “overlap.”
Another U.S. military official has revealed that the aim of the SDF fighters would be to shut down the all “back door” escape routes out of Raqqa to prevent ISIS fighters from running away. They are also planning a blockade of the city to prevent ISIS from getting fresh supplies. The official also confirmed that SDF forces would begin by working positions east of Raqqa. These U.S. backed rebels are also planning to take control of small villages located in the periphery of Raqqa – strategy that was also used in Mosul.
[Featured Image by Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda/AP Photo]