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

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

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

The Pentagon will supply Kurdish forces with heavy machine guns, armored cars, anti-tank weapons and mortars - supplies regarded as pivotal against an enemy that has fortified itself with trenches, booby traps, auto bombs and even tanks taken from Syrian army forces.

The U.K. -based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on May 13 said the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced to 4 kilometers from the northeast of the city in a multipronged offensive amid strong resistance from IS fighters.

Erdogan portrays USA support for the Kurdish militia - instead of Syrian Arab rebels - as a leftover policy from the Obama administration, which he said had wrongly accused Turkey of doing too little in the fight against Islamic State.

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

The U.S. decision to directly arm Kurdish units of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS could harm U.S. relations with Ankara and cause further instability within Syria and Turkey, but it was a "necessary" step against ISIS, Kurdish politicians and fighters said. Keeping in mind that Syrian Kurds make up the majority of the SDF, which the USA was already training and arming, how will this new decision affect the Kurds' military capabilities on the ground and the SDF's involvement in the anti-ISIS fight?

Mr Yildirim said he had been given the commitment about pursuing the PKK by General James Mattis, US Defence Secretary, during a counter-terrorism conference in London.

"We don't want them to give us big words and go behind our backs and say other things".

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Uslu said he expected Erdogan to present Trump with a plan for a Turkish role in the Raqqa area once the fighting there was over, to prevent a re-emergence of ISIS and to keep the Kurds from expanding their territory to the west of the Euphrates River. The security analyst, former Turkish diplomat Aydin Selgen, believes Ankara is able to unilaterally take actions to protect its own interests if a threat to national security from Syria and Iraq becomes possible.

Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency in Turkey.

According to Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on May 12, 2017, that the US support of the Syrian Kurds harms the strategic relations between the two countries.

Staffan de Mistura said Thursday that the proposal agreed upon by Russia, Iran and Turkey last week could lead to increased access by aid groups.

He said that weapons the White House has approved for the YPG had yet to arrive. "Clear the final neighbourhoods of the city and isolate Tabqa dam", said Centcom, referring to IS.

He added that the US -led coalition "tracked fleeing fighters and targeted those that could be safely hit without harming civilians".

There is no avoiding the fact that Turkey will play a major role in any Middle East settlement, and that no matter how effective the Kurdish fighters are, the United States must find common ground with President Erdogan on the region's future. "In order to do this, the US evidently prioritized Raqqa over Turkey's objections", Sam Heller, a Beirut-based analyst and fellow at the Century Foundation, told Syria Deeply. However, Washington has pushed back, calling the groups "partners" in the fight against Daesh in northern Syria.

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