SDF Begins Raqqa Offensive, Progress Continues in Mosul
SOUTHWEST ASIA --
The Syrian Democratic Forces and their Syrian Arab Coalition partners launched the offensive to unseat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from its so-called "capital" of Raqqa in northern Syria today.
The SAC and SDF began marching on Raqqa in November and have been rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.
The multi-ethnic SDF is the coalition’s local ground force partner in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria and they have proven themselves in Manbij, Tabqah and countless other towns and villages across northwest Syria over the past two years.
Army Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but the offensive would deliver a decisive blow to the idea of ISIS as a physical caliphate saying, "It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin 'capitals' in both Iraq and Syria," he said.
"We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England," Townsend said. "ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq and Syria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand."
Coalition forces will continue to support the SAC and SDF during their Raqqa offensive as part of their ‘advise and assist’ mission, providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, precision fires and battlefield advice.
The SDF have encouraged civilians to depart Raqqa so that they do not become trapped, used as human shields or targets for ISIS snipers. Once Raqqa is liberated, SDF officials said it will be turned over to a representative body of local civilians who will provide security and governance.
In Iraq, Iraqi forces continue to make steady gains in brutal, close-quarters urban combat against ISIS on the west side of Mosul.
"The international coalition and our partner forces are steadily dismantling the physical caliphate of ISIS," Townsend said. "Once ISIS is defeated in both Mosul and Raqqa, there will still be a lot of hard fighting ahead, but this coalition is strong and committed to the complete annihilation of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria."