ISIS Capital Will Be In US Allied Hands By End Of Year, US General Says

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Santino D. Martinez)

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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The top U.S. general in charge of the counter-Islamic State mission expects ISIS’s capital will be retaken by the end of the year.

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told CNN he would be surprised if the fight for the city of Raqqa would continue into next year in an interview during a day trip to Bakhaira base in Iraq. “I certainly hope that the assault on Raqqa is underway by this summer,” he said.

Current U.S. strategy relies on empowering and supporting local forces to retake the ISIS capital.

These local forces are known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, a multi-ethnic group of fighters dedicated to taking on ISIS in Syria. The U.S. has nearly 1000 troops inside Syria supporting the SDF’s operations, and provides the group with air support. Townsend clarified that more U.S. troops may be needed in Syria to support the SDF saying “we have the resources we need right now to do what we need to do, which is to complete the isolation of Raqqa.”

He continued, “after the isolation will come the assault and we are still evaluating the resources we need. If I need more resources I will go to my chain of command and tell them what I need to get the job done.”

Reports indicate ISIS is gearing up its defenses in Raqqa in anticipation of the U.S. assault. ISIS is forcing civilians to dress in the same garb to fool U.S. drones. The group has even now encircled the entire city of Raqqa with landmines and checkpoints, and is also forcing residents to camp out in tents in the middle of the street.

The group has stymied the U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces in the fight for Mosul, where thousands of civilians have been caught in the fighting. ISIS routinely uses Mosuls’s civilian population to deter U.S. airstrikes, and in some cases lures U.S. airstrikes into intentionally killing civilians. The group has deployed suicide bombers among civilians fleeing the fighting to kill soldiers at checkpoints.

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