The U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces and its Syrian Arab Coalition fighters are carrying out the latest offensive to further isolate Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh and ISIS.
Even as the secretary of state delivered his comments, a major operation has been launched in Syria by U.S. special forces to provide support to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in an assault behind ISIS lines.
A Pentagon spokesman says the US military has provided an airlift for Syrian fighters taking part in an offensive underway on the town of Tabqa, west of the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa.
It was the first such USA assistance to the Arab and Kurdish fighters comprising the Syrian Democratic Forces. A U.S. Marine artillery battery is also helping out, AFP reported.
The reference to “zones of stability” appeared to stop short of “safe zones”, which the USA military has been extremely reluctant to commit to enforcing in Syria, even as Trump and others have raised the idea at various times.
The Kurdish-led SDF has been on the offensive since November, aiming to surround the city.
It added that SDF fighters are marching under airstrike and artillery cover from the USA -led coalition.
In contrast, in eastern Syria, the al-Assad government is present in a few scattered, beleaguered military outposts-the most significant being an airbase outside of the city of Deir al-Zour in the lower Euphrates River Valley near the Syrian-Iraqi border.
A USA -backed Syrian Kurdish coalition says the US has landed infantry behind Islamic State lines to spearhead an assault on the town of Tabqa.
“It has become a military base to launch our operations on the west bank of the river until eventually liberating all the countryside of Raqqa”, the statement said.
“All of us must maintain pressure on ISIS’s networks within our own countries and take decisive law enforcement action to stop its growth”.
Tabaqa city contains the strategic Dam, which the IS threatens to blow up recently, as well as an airbase used to belong to the Syrian army before the downfall of Raqqa to the IS in 2014.
A USA official said last week that up to 1,000 additional American troops could deploy to northern Syria under provisional plans drawn up by the Pentagon.
A European diplomat, who did not want to be named, said the situation surrounding the Raqqa offensive remained “complex”.
The global coalition fighting the Islamic State will soon begin a final assault on Raqqa, France said on Friday.
Many locals fear Isis will blow up the dam, which generates 800MW of power, rather than surrender it to their enemies.
But ISIS remains in control of the area after the attack, and weeks of tough fighting could remain, Scrocca said. He said he understood Trump’s administration was still formulating policy, explaining that he will be more concerned if decisions aren’t made before the end of April.
Online, experts say the upcoming battle for Raqqa is not yet a topic of discussion for the group’s fighters or its supporters on forums or encrypted chat channels, with hardly any mention of the battle that awaits, despite the encroachment of the Kurdish and Arab fighters.