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Turkey wants to see FSA replace SDF in Raqqa battle

By Rudaw 21/2/2017
Cihan Sheikh Ahmad (L), spokesperson for the SDF’s Wrath of Euphrates campaign to isolate Raqqa, speaks with fellow SDF fighters on the outskirts of Raqqa on February 6. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
Cihan Sheikh Ahmad (L), spokesperson for the SDF’s Wrath of Euphrates campaign to isolate Raqqa, speaks with fellow SDF fighters on the outskirts of Raqqa on February 6. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Turkey is advocating for operations to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria to be conducted similarly to al-Bab, with Turkey backing Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces, the Turkish prime minister said after a meeting with the US vice president.

“There will be an al-Bab-style fight in Raqqa,” Binali Yildirim told journalists on Sunday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference after the prime minister’s meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

“We told them that using PYD/YPG elements to fight Daesh was not the right method of fighting,” Yildirim said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the force currently conducting a military offensive to isolate Raqqa, is comprised of Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) and local Arab fighters, including the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC), which the United States has backed with deliveries of arms and vehicles. The US-led coalition is also providing air support, carrying out daily airstrikes against ISIS positions in the Raqqa area to assist the advancing SDF.

Turkey considers the YPG and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), linked with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a named terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“It is not correct to use a terror group to fight another terror group,” Yildirim said. “So the job should be done worthily of a strategic partnership, a NATO alliance. I think they will take this sensitivity into consideration.”

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the local Raqqa population should be supported by the international community, while “Turkey, US, and other elements can give logistic support to this city.”

Raqqa “should not be left in the hands of other terrorist organizations,” he added, speaking after a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Monday, according to Anadolu Agency.

The SDF announced on Friday the next step in their Wrath of Euphrates campaign to isolate Raqqa. “In this step of the move, we will rescue Raqqa’s east and isolate its connection with Deir ez-Zor,” reads a statement from the leadership of the military operation. “By this means we will not only give the people of Raqqa the news of liberation, but also the people of Deir ez-Zor.”

The White House has not yet published a readout of Pence’s talks with Yildirim, but Pence tweeted that the meeting with the Turkish leader was "to discuss strength of the US-Turkey alliance and our work together to defeat ISIS."

The Pentagon has until the end of February to develop strategies to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIS, as requested by new US President Donald Trump. So far, the US has relied heavily on the SDF, a force which coalition military commanders have commended for their capabilities and fighting spirit, as they proved when retaking Manbij. 

The new US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who met recently with Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Isik to discuss the plan for Raqqa, was reluctant on Monday to show his country’s cards regarding continued US support for the SDF in northern Syria.

"We are still sorting it out. The allies are working together, they are sharing planning and that's ongoing,” Mattis said to reporters after his first visit to the Iraqi capital Baghdad. "The planning is still underway. It's not been all decided. We are working together to sort it out.”

Turkey has been supporting the FSA in efforts to retake al-Bab from ISIS as a part of Operation Euphrates Shield. Progress in the operation has been reportedly slow, with the Turkish army sending in over 1,300 of its own forces in an attempt to accelerate the fight with militants in the city. 

The conflict monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday that at least 444 civilians have been killed in al-Bab since Turkey and the FSA began their offensive.


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Turk | 21/2/2017
Yildrim is right. Not correct to use terror group to fight terror group. Therefore turkey disqualified itself from the fight because Turkey is another terror group.
turks stop crying | 21/2/2017
poor turks crying again. poor poor little turkey scared of kurdish women
Benjamin | 21/2/2017
Turkey has backed up a bunch of Turkmen jihadists (they now call FSA) with thousends of their own troops and STILL not been able to liberate Al-Bab, they've been constantly bombing the town and have hundereds of tanks and other heavy armor, sustained heavily loses. They must have a vivid imagination to think they can take Raqqa!
Dile | 21/2/2017
True the United States should not use a terroist group such as these Jihadi hords they call opposition or FSA to fight ISIS. We've lost count how many times these Jihadists have suddenly changed sides and joined ISIS or Al-Qaeda, it happened again just a little over a month ago in Al-Bab, a jihadi Arab group Turkey was supporting turned around and started targeting Turkish troops, Turkish media were not allowed to report it
dutchnational | 21/2/2017
Al Bab style fighting. This means "FSA" style rabble, mostly turkmens and turks, will fire away on Raqqah, leaving most of the more intense fighting to TSK and taking half a year in a ping pong battle, leaving the city completely destroyed, thousqnds of civilians killed and the countryside devastated. Let them fight like that within the turkic part of Turkey if they like to destruct.

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