Turkish Artillery Attacks Kill Eight Syrian Soldiers

13 March, 2017, 01:19 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
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When President Obama deployed 250 special forces to Syria in April 2016, despite repeatedly promising not to put US "boots on the ground" in Syria, State Department Spokesman John Kirby tried to parse the meaning of "boots on the ground" to exclude special forces.

Trained and advised by USA special operations troops, the SDF has proved to be the most reliable USA ally on the ground in Syria and the only local force it considers capable of rapidly taking Raqqa.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria in August 2016 in support of rebel groups with the twin goals of driving Daesh from its border and preventing the YPG from building an autonomous zone along the frontier.

Ankara had hoped to advance its strategy in northern Syria by persuading Washington to abandon its Kurdish allies and switch support to Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups for the final assault on Raqqa - a northern Syrian city that is Islamic State's de facto capital.

The artillery will allow the Marines to help support the SDF offensive, which has been gradually closing in on Raqa since last fall.

Until recently, the approximately 500 US troops in Syria were mostly Special Forces, but Votel said he sees little problem in mixing the special ops troops with conventional forces.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, said the strikes occurred before dawn Tuesday and killed 23 people, including eight children.

BEIRUT/MOSUL, Iraq U.S. -backed Syrian militias said on Friday they were strong enough to seize Raqqa from Islamic State with support from the U.S. -led coalition, underlining their opposition to any Turkish role in the planned attack.

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U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicles were recently spotted in Northeast Syria, prompting Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, to confirm via Twitter that American troops had deployed near Manbij, about 90 miles northwest of Raqqa. A Pentagon official told the Washington Post, which broke the story about the Marines being sent to Syria, that both the White House and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis approved the deployment.

The United States has turned up the heat on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, sending an additional 400 USA troops into Syria to support an offensive to retake Raqqa, the militants' de facto capital.

Kurdish officials have not confirmed the death toll, but there have been reports out of the YPG a few times claiming they were coming under attack from Turkish forces. "Conducting operations to isolate and liberate Raqqa while also working to liberate Mosul presents the enemy with more dilemmas than their command and control capabilities can manage", he said.

As with fighting in Mosul, Iraq, current plans for Raqqa will require cooperation between varying forces in defeating ISIS.

Ahmed said if the USA wants the Raqqa campaign to move ahead, "they must protect Manbij".

A series of options for the Syria fight were mapped out by the military. Deir al-Zor province is nearly completely in the control of IS, also known as ISIS.

"Manbij is liberated, and there's no need for further fighting there", Davis said.

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