Commanders of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, speak during a press conference in the Syrian town of Tabqa which was liberated earlier this week. Photo: AFP/Delil Souleiman
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — An SDF commander has said the operation to storm and liberate the ISIS-held city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in Syria, may start by their forces in the beginning of summer, a task assigned to the Kurdish-led force.
Abdulqadir Hevidli said that it has been agreed “in writing” that the SDF will liberate Raqqa city, and that no other force is welcome to join them in their march against the strategic city.
Speaking at a press conference alongside other SDF commanders in the now liberated Tabqa city on Friday, he said that the operation to oust ISIS from Raqqa will begin “in the near future.”
“I believe that the [operation] to storm and liberate the city will be conducted in summer — in the beginning of summer,” he added.
He said that they have records “in writing” with the Global Coalition which tasks them with the liberation of Raqqa city.
“The liberation of Raqqa province will be at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces. It is recorded and written that the city — or the Raqqa province — will be liberated at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces. And we the commanders present here will give you this good news in the heart of the Raqqa city,” he revealed.
Asked whether the US-led Global Coalition has discussed with the multi-ethnic SDF force the prospect of adding other forces to the operation, especially in light of the Turkish willingness to deploy its forces, or Syrian rebels backed by Ankara, Hevidli said they do not want any other forces to join the Wrath of Euphrates, the official name for the Raqqa operation that was launched in early November last year.
“We do not want any force to partake with us. We thank them as our forces are enough to liberate Raqqa, and beyond Raqqa,” he said, adding that it is better off for these countries “to solve their own problems.”
The SDF is to hand over Tabqa city to a civilian authority, the spokesperson for the Raqqa operation told reporters just over 50 days after the Tabqa operations began.
“The administration of Tabqa will be handed over to the civilian Council of Tabqa to administer its affairs together with the internal security that comes under its command after the full liberation of the city and clearing it from mines and remnants of the operation,” Cihan Sheikh Ahmed told reporters in a statement.
She also said that the Tabqa dam, also liberated by the SDF this week with its vast water and electricity resources servicing the north of the country, will continue to serve all Syrians.
“We also declare that the Tabqa dam institution is a Syrian national institution that will serve all Syrian people without any exceptions,” she added.