The United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has revealed that the military is laying groundwork to capture Raqqa terror group, ISIS’S biggest stronghold in Syriaeven as thousands of Kurdish and Peshmerga forces are locked down in battles with ISIS in Mosul, ISIS’ second largest stronghold..
Carter, speaking in Paris alongside France’s Secretary of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said on Tuesday.”There is no delay,” when asked if the Mosul fight might slow the offensive on Raqqa and added that the effort to seize ‘Raqqa from ISIS is proceeding on plan even as Mosul is proceeding on plan.”
There will be overlap, and that is part of our plan,, We have already begun laying groundwork to commence the isolation of Raqqa. It starts in the next few weeks, That has long been our plan and we will be capable of resourcing both. It’s been long a part of our plan that the Mosul operation would kick off when it did. This was a plan that goes back many months now and that Raqqa would follow soon behind.”
When asked whether U.S. special forces or other troops would be sent inside Mosul or Raqqa to gather intelligence or hunt “high-value combatants, Carter said focus will be on local troops. And even though no indigenous local force capable of fighting ISIS exists in Raqqa, Carter stressed the need for local forces to take the lead in the fight against ISIS, saying “We want a victory that sticks everywhere, so it’s always local forces.”
“They are not near [Mosul] at this time … Our forces do accompany …. the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga. So they will get nearer to the city as those forces get nearer to the city … We are not going to be part of the occupation or hold forces. I certainly am encouraged by the results of our campaign so far in that it has been proceeding as planned, The Iraqis are fighting with skill, and commitment, and courage enabled by the coalition.”
Le Drian , France’s defence Secretary also said the coalition’s role in helping local forces with airstrikes, artillery and training wouldn’t stop as it was key to defeating the terror group.
“At this stage, things are going according to plan. It will be a difficult battle of course because ISIL has much to lose, but we are determined to support our allies who are fighting on the ground, and we’d like to commend their courage, their devotion and sacrifice, The loss of Mosul down the road will be a crushing defeat for ISIL, it will be a major symbolic loss, it is from this town that its chief sought to challenge the civilized world,” Le Drian said.