US to provide additional weapons, 200 Special Forces to assist SDF campaign in Raqqa

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SDF fighters clearing a village in northern Raqqa after ISIS expulsion. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Erbil – The US-led coalition will send an additional 200 American Special Forces to enable operations towards the isolation of Raqqa. The US will also provide additional arms support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting in Raqqa.

“Additional 200 US SOF will deploy to Syria to enable operations towards Raqqa. SDF launched 2nd phase of Raqqa strangulation this morning,” Brett McGurk, the anti-ISIS coalition envoy, said on Saturday.

“The latest commitment of additional forces within Syria is another important step in enabling our partners to defeat ISIS,” US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter said during the IISS Manama dialogue conference in Bahrain on Saturday, suggesting they will enable local forces to oust ISIS from Raqqa.

In the meantime, the US President Barack Obama has waived prohibitions in the US Arms Export Control Act, which will allow the US to arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and their partners that launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation on Saturday.

US officials said the waiver will not be used to arm groups in Aleppo, only groups fighting ISIS in northern Syria. “We’re talking about partner forces that we’re working with in northern Syria,” US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said, in an indirect reference to the SDF forces.

The waived sections of the law will allow the US to provide defence articles and services to forces within Syria allied to the US, a decision described by the White House as “essential” to national-security interests.

“Since Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism, from time to time the President has to enact – or waive, I guess – restrictions that would otherwise prohibit the US military from providing assistance, lethal assistance to our partners who are carrying out these activities against Daesh or ISIS,” Toner said.

“We have provided some level of assistance to the Syrian Democratic Forces that are fighting in northern Syria against Daesh. That’s on top of the advice and training that we’ve provided these groups. And the reason we’ve done that is that they’ve been highly effective in going after and destroying Daesh on the battlefield in northern Syria,” Toner added.

“(By enabling) the Syrian Democratic Forces to liberate territory in Syria, we work to bring and provide stability back into these cities, work with local governments, local councils to re-establish stability in these areas,” Toner said. “Our special envoy, Brett McGurk, is in constant contact with many of these groups, as well as with Turkish authorities and others in the region, on what comes next,” he stated.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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