USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon, 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Op Inherent Resolve, on 4 Feb 2017, by Mst Sgt Benjamin Wilson

Counter-ISIL Forces Prepare for Attack on Raqqa

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the Syrian Democratic Forces’ isolation of Raqqa, Syria, to drive out Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremists is well under way.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2017 — The Syrian Democratic Forces’ isolation of Raqqa, Syria, to drive out Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremists is well under way, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt Jeff Davis said today.

Speaking to reporters, Davis said Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve’s efforts to defeat ISIL in Mosul, Iraq, are somewhat static as friendly forces prepare to launch their offensive on the second quadrant of city on the west. But the situation in Raqqa is changing, he noted.

Both Raqqa and Mosul are ISIL’s self-proclaimed capitals and have been under enemy control for about two years.

‘The Constriction Is Starting’

“The three axes the SDF have taken [are] in the south, northwest … and east,” Davis said of Raqqa.

And because the SDF has begun blowing up bridges south of Raqqa along the Euphrates River, the enemy has only one route from which it can resupply.

“The constriction of Raqqa is starting,” Davis said.

Davis characterized the operation to isolate Raqqa as one that is “going well.”

Among the SDF isolating Raqqa, the Arab element has grown to 50 percent in the campaign, he said.

SDF: Ethnically Diverse

“We have [been] working with SDF leadership to make [the forces] more ethnically diverse and more reflective of the population area it’s moving into,” Davis explained.

Retaking Raqqa from ISIL control is critical to stop the external operations planning that is known to occur in the city, he emphasized.

“By comparison, when we took Manbij, which was a far-smaller town, we were stunned by the amount of material we found there that provided insight on active external plots,” the captain said.

“If you take by extension how much bigger Raqqa is than Manbij, the potential for what’s going on there is very high,” he said.

“There is an imperative for us to take Raqqa quickly,” Davis said, “because it is the one place within the area which [ISIL] controls that has, we know, the greatest amount of foreign external plotting happening in it.”

There is no set date to retake the city, “but it’s something we know is urgent,” he added.

Source: US Department of Defense

Photo: In Southwest Asia, an F-16 Fighting Falcon sits on the flightline at sunset at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, Feb. 4, 2017. The F-16 is part of the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson