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Islamic State's stronghold is holding out against coalition forces

US Special Forces say they’ve currently no plans to take the de facto capital of Raqqa.

Coalition forces are still carrying out airstrikes but there are no plans to take Raqa.
Coalition forces are still carrying out airstrikes but there are no plans to take Raqa.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE COMMANDER OF US special operations has said that, while coalition forces have put the so-called Islamic State group under pressure, there is no immediate battlefield plan to take its de facto capital.

Briefing US lawmakers in Washington, senior generals said the US-led anti-IS coalition was working with local ground forces to isolate the group’s Syrian stronghold in the city of Raqqa.

But General Joseph Votel, head of Special Operations Command, said this broad strategy does not yet amount to a plan to take Raqqa, despite recent advances by US-backed fighters grouped under the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’banner.

“There is currently not a plan,” he said. Asked whether the coalition has a plan hold the city after it falls, he added:

I would say no, there is not a plan to hold Raqqa.

And, under questioning from the Senate Armed Services Committee, he admitted that the SDF force that the US-led coalition relies upon for ground forces in the Raqa area is “probably about 80%” Kurdish.

The coalition has been criticized for its over-reliance on Kurdish allies, who may struggle to win over civilians in a mainly Arab town like Raqqa and are considered suspect by neighboring Turkey.

© – AFP 2016

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