The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are upbeat today after their leadership announced the invasion of the ISIS capital city of Raqqa, with officials bragging of high morale, and 30,000 fighters ready to move into the city with US air support.
The US has made much of wanting the Raqqa invasion to be launched concurrent with the ongoing invasion of ISIS’ largest city, Mosul, in Iraq. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is conceding that the offensive “will not be easy,” saying the early offensive will center on trying to surround the city.
Raqqa has been out of government control since March 2013, when it was taken by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. The following year, it was captured by ISIS, and named as the capital city of their “caliphate,” which it has remained ever since.
US officials have warned that they think ISIS is plotting attacks against Western targets from within Raqqa, and used that as their justification for pushing a quick offensive against the city with the battle for Mosul already raging. The SDF being more or less the only force on the ground is set to be hugely controversial, however.
That’s because the SDF is effectively the Kurdish YPG with a few smaller militias affiliated with them, and the Turkish government has repeatedly warned the US against allowing any Kurds into Raqqa. The YPG has similarly warned they don’t want Turkey involved in the Raqqa battle at all, and while the US is trying to keep both sides focused on ISIS, they’ve had limited success, with Turkey recently attacking YPG forces attacking ISIS targets around Afrin.