Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Activists say Kurdish-led forces advance on IS-held Raqqa

Elaine Woods | 15 May, 2017, 17:57

A prominent Turkish newspaper has demanded the eviction of USA troops and warplanes from Incirlik Air Base as fallout there worsens from the Trump administration's controversial move to arm a Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State in neighboring Syria.

Arab and Kurdish militias expect to storm Islamic State's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in early summer, one of their commanders said, with the help of weapons they are awaiting from the US-led coalition.

Earlier this week, the United States announced it would arm the Kurdish elements of the SDF for the fight for Raqqa - dubbed Operation Wrath of the Euphrates.

But Erdogan may not be amenable to accepting the USA military support for the Kurds in a quid pro quo.

Ankara, a crucial partner in the US -led coalition against Islamic State, considers the YPG an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast for three decades and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States. Thus, the SDF was created. And American officials have stressed that the US will try to ensure that the arms supplied to Kurdish fighters aren't smuggled out for separatist attacks on Turkish interests.

The seizure of Tabqa and Tabqa Dam comes just days after President Donald Trump authorized the Pentagon to equip the Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Reports said Erdogan's aides were told by USA officials about the decision on May 8, one day before the move was made public.

By associating Kurdish forces with illegal armed groups Turkish president actually accuses the United States of supporting terrorism.

"The attack on Raqqa will take place in the beginning of the summer", Syrian Democratic Forces commander Rojda Felat told AFP.

Rankne-Galloway could not say how many ISIS fighters were killed in those strikes, but according to another Central Command press statement, "two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions" on Wednesday.

If the United States wants indigenous ground forces in Syria to fight ISIS so that our own soldiers don't have to go in there and do it, the Kurds are the only viable option.

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And in Aleppo province, it was announced on pro-government media that the Syrian army, aided by heavy aerial bombing by the Russian and Syrian air forces, has taken full control of a small airbase held by ISIL in the east of the province.

Speaking to Voice of America (VOA), the co-leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim welcomed the decision by the new USA administration to deliver arms to the YPG.

Such a confrontation between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partners clearly shows how the six-year war in Syria has turned over strategic alliances.

Trump has made his priorities clear. Last month, Turkish airstrikes hit Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq, killing 20 YPG fighters at their Syrian headquarters on Qerecox Mountain and five Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq. They told us there was a requirement.

No, "Turkey has concluded it is better to be on the in than the out", Stein added. As another domestic factor, both Euphrates Shield and the recent airstrikes closely followed intense and effective urban warfare campaigns against the PKK in Turkey-in Sur, Nusaybin and Cizre.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said issues with the United States will be largely solved during his USA visit next week. We will defend ourselves from them in Turkey.

"I believe this support will arrive soon", he said.

"The SDF's increased pressure on ISIS from each flank allowed it to..."

Arming the Kurds is a good first step.

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