US commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend today told CBS News that he believes only about 25-30% of the military campaign for the ISIS capital city of Raqqa has happened, talking up the massive US military buildup in the area, and insisting that US troops are “just getting started good” in the city’s invasion.
So far, that means a handful of US troops embedded with the invading Kurdish YPG, and a dirt runway in the middle of the desert with storage space for 100 tons of munitions, where US forces are clearly setting up a base for the long haul, in what could be a long invasion indeed.
To put it in context, the US announced the invasion of Raqqa had “begun” back in October, within days of the start of the Iraqi invasion of Mosul. US and Kurdish forces only reached the city of Raqqa earlier this month, however, with the other efforts all focused on “surrounding” the city, something they appear to have had limited success with, judging by the number of ISIS convoys finding their way out of Raqqa and toward Palymra.
Townsend added that he thinks the US will be in Syria long after this current battle, dubbing the return to insurgency “ISIS 2.0” and predicting that US ground troops would still be in Syria “dealing with that problem set for awhile.”
This is all happening without the permission of the Syrian government, of course, but Townsend downplayed the risk of clashes with Syria or Russia over that fact, saying that he believes they’re comfortable with focusing on the rest of the country while the US invades Raqqa, and that he doesn’t anticipate any conflicts.