The Pentagon is going to present a new plan to the Trump administration in order to allow it to accelerate the war against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Syria and, in particular, in Raqqa city, the CNN TV-channel reported on Tuesday. The US Defense Department believes that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are the only forces, capable to conquer the IS in Raqqa.
According to one of the options of the Pentagon’s plan, the US can send thousands additional troops in Syria in order to assist to take Raqqa city. However, at the same time, CNN noted that the number of troops on the ground depends on progress made in arming and training of the SDF by the US-led coalition.
Currently, the SDF consists of about 50,000 fighters, including more than 27,000 fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The Syrian Arab Coalition portion of the SDF includes some 23,000 Arab forces, with some Kurds in the mix.
“The Pentagon could put several US brigade-sized combat teams on the ground, each team perhaps as many as 4,000 troops,” the CNN’s report noted.
According to CNN, US troops would not enter the city, but would just operate outside Raqqa, carrying out airstrikes and controlling roads and towns around it. However, the decisions to deploy additional US troops in Syria or to directly arm Kurdish fighters to control areas around Raqqa will depend only by the Trump administration.
Pentagon officials understand that such a move would evoke anger of Turkey, which considers the SDF as a part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization in the country. However, the US Defense Department believes that the SDF are the only one local force, which is capable to recapture the ground around Raqqa city.
“Arab elements of the SDF are the ones who would eventually enter Raqqa, a predominantly Arab town,” CNN quoted the Pentagon.
Last week, new US Defense Secretary General James Mattis said that the incoming administration will try to accelerate the Raqqa campaign.
“I believe that strategy needs to be reviewed and perhaps energized on a more aggressive timeline,” Mattis said.
At the same time, Assistant Secretary of Defense Elissa Slotkin added that the ultimate goal of the campaign is to isolate Raqqa city.
“Our commanders have a plan. You know that we’re in the beginning – or we’re in the middle actually of isolating Raqqa, and that’s going well,” Slotkin noted.
On Monday, the SDF announced that since the start of the so-called Euphrates Wrath operation, they have liberated 3,200 square kilometers of the Syrian territory, including 236 villages, killed more than 620 IS members and liberated thousands of civilians in the western Raqqa’s countryside.