Pentagon says Raqqa operation to begin in weeks
WASHINGTONA U.S.-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) plans to launch operations within weeks to isolate the Syrian city of Raqqa as an offensive in Iraq’s Mosul continues, Washington said hours after Ankara said the Raqqa operation should start after the end of the Mosul and Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operations in northern Syria.
“We all feel it’s important to maintain pressure on ISIL at this particular moment in time, while they’re feeling the heat in Mosul,” state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook as saying on Oct. 31 during a daily press briefing. “The effort to liberate Raqqa will begin, as the secretary [U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter] said, within a matter of weeks.”
“Turkey’s idea on a Raqqa operation is clear. We are for [an operation] in Raqqa to be made consisting of the people of Raqqa. It is our opinion that it will be the correct thing to conduct [the Raqqa operation] – both militarily and strategically – after the Mosul and Euphrates Shield operations end,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Oct. 31 after a cabinet meeting in Ankara.
Responding to a question about a disagreement between Turkey and the U.S. regarding the Raqqa operation, Cook said Ankara and Washington were still working out how to move forward with uprooting ISIL from its self-declared capital in Syria.
Carter said Oct. 25 that there was an imminent need to isolate Raqqa and that an attack on the city would start while the battle of Mosul in neighboring Iraq was still unfolding.
One day later, on Oct. 26 the top U.S. military commander in Iraq Army Lt.-Gen. Stephen Townsend said fighters of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey regards as a terror organization, will be included as a part of the force to isolate Raqqa.
But Ankara is opposed to the involvement of the PYD and YPG in operations as it regards these organizations as offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Kurtulmuş told reporters in Ankara on Oct. 31 that his government’s suggestion was to use local Arabs in the operation and to hold the territory.
Despite the differences of positions expressed by Washington and Ankara, Cook said Turkey and the U.S. were on the same page, noting “an ongoing conversation” between the two countries.
Updating reporters about operations against ISIL in Iraq, Cook said in some places Iraqi forces were less than one kilometer from Mosul.
He added that the Pentagon leadership was happy with the momentum in the Mosul operation.