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All-Arab force to enter Raqqa once liberated

By Rudaw 12/2/2017
Female Arab fighters among the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters, stand together near the village of al-Torshan, 20 km on the outskirts of Raqa last Monday. Photo: AFP/Delil Souleiman.
Female Arab fighters among the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters, stand together near the village of al-Torshan, 20 km on the outskirts of Raqa last Monday. Photo: AFP/Delil Souleiman.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — An all-Arab force will be tasked with the mission of entering the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the ISIS once it has been fully liberated, Ahmad al-Jarba who commands a US-trained 3,000-strong Arab force under the banner of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) said on Sunday.

“The Elite Force and the Arab forces of the Syrian Democratic Force are the ones who will enter Raqqa in the case of its liberation, God Willing, to clear the excuses that says ‘the Kurds are entering Arab cities and towns.’” he told the Arabic Al-Hayat newspaper, making reference to the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC).

He explained that this will also avoid ethnic tensions in the city in the case of one force alone, namely Kurds entering Raqqa.

The US-led coalition is providing air support, advice, training, and material to the SAC, one of the elements fighting within the ethnically diverse SDF.

“The SAC is made of about 23,000 fighters, 13,000 of which are vetted. These are the only ones we train and equip,” the press office of the coalition confirmed to Rudaw English by email in early February. 

In late January, the coalition and the SDF confirmed that the coalition had provided armored vehicles to the SAC.

Jabra added that people in their areas should take upon themselves to reclaim their cities and towns, or else it will create what he termed “immediate problems.”

He had said earlier in February that the Elite Force, which he claimed to number 3,000 and trained by the US-led coalition, is to be deployed to the fight against ISIS militants in Raqqa under the banner of the SDF  who have already captured large areas north and west of the ISIS capital.

The SDF, at the time of announcing the second stage of Raqqa operation in December which is dubbed the Wrath of Euphrates, revealed that the Syrian Elite Force will join the military campaign, following a request from the US-led coalition.

After reaching an agreement with the US-led coalition, the elite force will fight under the SDF flag for the Raqqa operation but will remain an independent force, Talal Silo, the SDF spokesperson said then.

The al-Ghad al-Souri Movement, which is the political arm of the Elite Force, formed in March 2016. In September the group made an agreement with the Kurdish self-autonomous region in Syria’s Kurdish Rojava administration with respect to governance in their cantons. The group’s head hailed it as a “new chapter of brotherly relations between Arabs and Kurds.”

The US is a staunch supporter of the SDF. They both confirmed that the SAC received in late January several Guardian armored vehicles from the US.
It launched the operation to liberate Raqqa last November and they announced the third stage of the operation to isolate and eventually defeat ISIS in Raqqa this month.

The UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon stated on Saturday evening in Erbil that he is hoping the SDF will complete the isolation stage “by the end of Spring”.

The primary goal of this phase is the complete isolation of Raqqa, clearing territory east of the city, Cihan Shekh Ahmed, spokesperson of the general command of the Wrath of Euphrates had earlier said.

"I hope that isolation will be completed by the spring and then operations to liberate Raqqa itself can begin thereafter," Fallon said.

The US-led anti-ISIS international coalition, which also includes the UK, provide air support and military materiel to the campaign.


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Kurdistan | 12/2/2017
Kurds dont want to occupy other peopels land like others do with Kurdish land. All towns and cities should be run by the people who live there but its so hypocritical how other occupiers dont respect the same right for Kurds. There will be no stability freedom in the region as long as Kurds dont get their freedom and right for self dertimination.
FAUthman | 12/2/2017
According to other reports SDF Arab fighters are much more than just 3000. 20,000 have been reported of which 12000 have been vetted by the US for training. Of those perhaps only 3000 have completed training. Inside Raqqa the Arab members of the SDF will probably do the fighting Kurds rendering external support. On another note regarding a new US strategy in the Middle East according to Ragihda Enghram of Al Hayat : US will strengthen traditional friends, Saudi Arabia, Egypt,...etc, but this is new : Strengthen paramilitary groups to counter other hostile paramilitary groups. I leave it up to your imagination which groups that will include, it would certainly also include strengthening the Kurds!
PC | 12/2/2017
FAUthman nothing will make us happier if the inhabitants of Raqqa take most of the responsibility for liberating the city but please don't call Raqqa an 'Arab city' as thousends of Kurds Turkmen and Christians have lived there for centuries. It's true that Arabs are in majority today in Raqqa but they achieved that through a systematic Arabization program initiated by the Syrian regime in the 60's, the regime forcefully evicted Kurds and other groups and gave the homes and lands they confiscated from Kurds to Arab tribes, Arabs were not majority in Raqqa 5 decades ago. In fact there were few small pockets of Arab tribes across northern Syria 5-6 decades ago, Kurds were the largest group followed by Christians and Turkmen.
FAUthman | 13/2/2017
PC, you are right Raqqa is an Arab majority city, my calling it an "Arab city" in one of my posts is inaccurate and misleading!
duroi | 13/2/2017
Turkey/Arabs are now in full control of Kurdish Manbij-Afrin Corridor because YPG's mis-placed focus on Raqqa (due to pressure from Obama) and some "kala-Raqqa" mindsets. Raqqa has zero strategic importance to Kurds and after its fall, the Kurds cannot "fish from the muddy waters" in Syria. YPG should instead focus on opening a 100 KM wide vital desert corridor to Jordan by marching boldly south along the Iraq-Syria border to Euphrates, capture Al-Bukmal to Dura Europos along the Eupherates and march parallel to the Iraq-Syria border from Dura Europos in Bukmal to Hamda (34.04, 38.75) just 50 KM to Syria-Iraq-Jordan crossing (all through the desert roads). Roj Pishmarga under YPG command can also help to open this highly strategic "Dura (Europos) corridora" to Jordan if we can replace our "kala-Raqqa" urges with this "Dura kori-dora" focus.

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