War on IS: Raqqa offensive begins 'immediately after Mosul'

War on IS: Raqqa offensive begins 'immediately after Mosul'
A Kurdish commander in the YPG told reporters details about the offensive to retake Raqqa for the first time.
2 min read
19 March, 2017
An SDF fighter positioned outside Raqqa in north Syria [AFP]
The battle to retake Raqqa from Islamic State (IS) will start at the beginning of April, a commander of the Kurdish People's Defence Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia, told reporters.

The battle would start as soon as the Mosul offensive started to wrap up, reportedly involving YPG and SDF troops, Commander Sipan Hemo said.

"We believe that liberating Raqqa will not take more than a number of weeks," he said.

The United States refused to give a date for the offensive, saying that it had not been decided yet.

"We have not made any decisions on how and when we will move in for the liberation of Raqqa," said Pentagon spokesman, Captain Jeff Davis.

The presence of YPG forces in the fight for Raqqa is a sticking point for Ankara, which views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as an offshoot of the banned Kurdish organisation, the PKK.

Turkey has been lobbying Washington to instead use Turkey-supported Syrian rebel fighters in north Syria.

The Turkish political analyst, Oktay Yilmaz, told The New Arab that talks between Washington and Ankara over the presence of Kurdish fighters were on-going and would not be concluded until US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, visited Turkey.

"Washington wants to find a compromise because they know Kurdish control of Raqqa is not possible because Raqqa is majority Arab and these people will reject Kurdish control," Yilmaz said.

"If the US tries to enter Raqqa, relying on the Kurdish militias, they will meet a stiff resistance coming from the local population."

Hemo said that the army to retake Raqqa would comprise of one quarter Kurdish YPG fighters, alongside the alliance of US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The SDF successfully cut off a main IS supply route from Deir ez-Zour to Raqqa two weeks ago and has been positioned near the city of Raqqa for months.