US says talking to Turkey about seizure of Raqqa
FORT LEONARD WOOD, MissouriThe United States is continuing to talk with ally Turkey on the role it will play in the operation to seize the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) main stronghold in Syria, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said on Nov. 2.
Carter’s comments, made during a news conference, come days after Turkey said it wants the Raqqa operation to start after Mosul and Euphrates Shield operations have been completed.
“We’ll continue to talk with Turkey about its role in the eventual seizure of Raqqa, but we’re proceeding now with the operation according to our plan,” Carter said, according to Reuters.
Carter said last week that Washington expected the Raqqa operation to overlap with the battle to retake Mosul from ISIL.
“We intend to go there soon with the force that is capable of doing that and enveloping the city of Raqqa... the final seizure of Raqqa, we continue to talk to Turkey about that and a possible role for Turkey in that further down the road,” Carter said.
Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), fighters will be included as a part of the force to isolate the ISIL-held Syrian city, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq had said.
The United States regards the YPG and PYD as allies in its fight against ISIL, but Turkey regards them as terrorist organizations because of its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey has said that the Raqqa operation should be carried out by local forces and the YPG militia should not be included.
In an article published in the Washington Post on Oct. 31, U.S. administration officials were cited as saying U.S. President Barack Obama told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that “the decision had been made to launch the initial phase of the offensive to isolate Raqqa, using the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as the only force capable of succeeding.”
“The United States would work to control the Kurds, but Turkey needed to support the coalition-backed operation or stay out of the way,” the report quoted the officials as saying regarding a telephone call between Erdoğan and Obama last week.
Erdoğan said he had urged Obama during the telephone call not to include the YPG in the Raqqa offensive.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed SDF alliance of Kurdish and Arab armed groups said on Nov. 3 that it would reject Turkish involvement in the Raqqa operation.
“The Syrian Democratic Forces are the only force that will take part in the operation to liberate Raqqa and we informed the [international U.S.-led coalition forces that we reject any Turkish role in the Raqqa liberation operation,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters.