A campaign in northern Syria aims to capture the unofficial, de-facto capital city of Raqqa from ISIS control. The operation is lead by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and a collective of Arabic, Turkish, and Kurdish militias, although the United States is included in the effort.
The campaign, “Euphrates Anger”, officially began on November 6th but is an effort expected to take months, because once the air and ground military operations are complete, the SDF will need to establish a governance that will be acceptable to the locals in the surrounding regions.
Euphrates Anger has been described as an “isolation” effort, a siege to cut off certain supplies to the city prior to the primary assault and ground liberation. Raqqa is about 50 miles from Syria’s northern border with Turkey and is roughly the size of Richmond, Virginia. Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon official, told RT America that what may complicate matters is the element of competition between United States and Russia to take over the area and lead the subsequent democratizing effort. It is also feared that the Turks will refuse to cooperate with the Kurds.
NBC News points out that because of its position and nature, “Raqqa provides an enticing target for Westerners lured by ISIS propaganda. Tens of thousands of wannabe jihadis have traveled to Syria from Europe, North Africa and to a lesser extent the United States.” For this reason, many nations have a stake in the outcome and its success would be a major letdown for the infamous influence of ISIS’ propaganda strategies. NBC also comments that civilian locals suspected of treason were being executed in increasing numbers in Mosul and Raqqa, so the change in leadership may be welcome though care must be exercised.
On the other hand, CNN’s International Correspondent interprets the local sentiment as one of fear: “ISIS has been telling the civilians in Raqqa that when the Kurdish fighters come into their city they will be slaughtered in the street… With little access to the media and Internet, people no longer know who to trust.” CNN also reports on the statements of Coalition spokesman Col. John L. Dorrian, who confirms that the coalition will be employing calculated airstrikes as “shaping operations…against Da’esh leaders, command and control and resources.”
The statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter regarding the effort is essentially that it will not be simple or easy but that it is a necessary step to ending ISIS’s “barbaric grip” and “disrupt the groups ability to carry out terror attacks.” The projected success of the operation will likely not be the absolute end of ISIS as the world knows it, but it will nonetheless be a decisive blow.
The information herein is as of November 16th.