Backed SDF says it can capture Syrian city of Raqqa


Dorrian told The Associated Press by telephone that the USA -backed force will close in on Raqqa within a few weeks and warned that the battle for the city will likely be hard as the extremists are well dug in.

United States air force Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for the US-led coalition, said the coalition was working on simultaneous or overlapping operations in Syria and Iraq.

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The additional forces that had arrived in "the last few days" comprised a Marines artillery unit and Army Rangers. The coalition said it was investigating the incident. Rudskoi also says that Syrian government forces have recaptured 92 towns and villages across a territory of 479 square kilometers, or 185 square miles, from IS in the past week.

Dorrian said the SDF will need a "few more weeks" to completely isolate Raqqa and a decision will be made about the timing "of the liberation battle to begin".

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"Raqqa is recognized as the financial, leadership and external ops center of the Islamic State, so that's what makes it important", Gen. Joseph Votel told CNN in November.

At the same time, there is a dispute on the Syrian side about which forces will be taking al-Raqqa, the capital of the collapsing Daesh "caliphate".

"We have had what I would describe as a pretty relentless air campaign to destroy enemy capabilities and to kill enemy fighters in that area already". "If we go to Manbij and the PYD is there, we will hit them".

A Kurdish military source told Reuters that further us reinforcements were expected to arrive in the coming days.

Cavusoglu gave no deadline for any withdrawal of the YPG militia, seen by Ankara as a hostile force allied to PKK Kurdish militants fighting an insurgency on Turkish soil.

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Deeply anxious by the YPG's influence, Ankara is pressing Washington to take part in the final assault on Raqqa.

The top USA commander in the campaign against IS, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, said earlier this month that the SDF comprises 40 percent Kurdish fighters and some 60 percent are from the Syrian Arab coalition. Turkey-backed rebels - with a more Islamist outlook - occupy a pocket of land along the Turkish border from Jarablus to Afrin.

The newspaper said that the troops will help in the upcoming battle to oust IS from Raqqa, adding that U.S. Marines will be temporarily stationed at "an outpost from which they can fire artillery guns".

The Marines moving into Syria are pre-positioning howitzers to be ready to assist local Syrian forces, a US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press.

The comments came a day after Turkey stepped back from threats to unilaterally strike Kurdish militia deployed in Manbij. The YPG denies this. On a recent trip to Turkey, McCain met with Erdogan, where the Turkish leader expressed a strong opposition of the USA working with Kurdish forces in Syria.

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He added that a new shipment of armoured personnel carriers had been supplied to the Syrian Arab Coalition, part of the SDF which has been vetted by the USA -led coalition, since an earlier delivery was announced in late January.