Published: Mon, March 13, 2017
National | By Miranda Cannon

IS conflict: USA sends Marines to support Raqqa assault

IS conflict: USA sends Marines to support Raqqa assault

The United States has sent a Marine Corps artillery battery into Syria to help defeat the Islamic State group in Raqa, the capital of their supposed caliphate, a USA official said.

Moreover, while the US and their coalition claims to be working to defeat IS in Raqqa, various reports state that the USA - led coalition is carrying out airstrikes that target Syrian civilians, military, and infrastructure.

Despite various proclamations that the USA will not have any "boots on the ground" in Syria, on March 9 the Washington Post and CNN reported that the Trump administration sent hundreds of Marines to the area in and around Manbij, Syria, to allegedly prevent conflict between us backed militants and Turkish forces.

Time is of the essence because the fight for Raqqa will be easier while the Islamic State leadership is preoccupied with defending western Mosul, the militants' last stronghold in Iraq, Col. John Dorrian, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, told USA TODAY. "He left before we isolated Mosul and Tal Afar", a town to the west, a United States defense official said. "Because if you mention one particular religion in the same sentence as terrorism, then the followers of that faith — which in this case is 2 billion people — they will be disturbed, and this is not the right thing to do".

The United States is carrying out airstrikes in Syria and has deployed surface-to-surface rockets in the northern part of the country.

Over the weekend, a separate force of elite U.S. Army Rangers was deployed to the city of Manbij to the north west of Raqqa, in heavily armored vehicles called Strykers.

US officials said Wednesday that a couple hundred Marines have deployed into Syria with heavy artillery guns, as part of preparations for the fight to oust IS from Raqqa.

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Delegates are expected from Russian Federation and Iran, which back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, and from Turkey, which supports some Sunni-Arab rebel factions.

"We encourage all forces to remain focused on the counter-ISIS fight and concentrate their efforts on defeating ISIS and not toward other objectives that may cause the coalition to divert energy and resources away from Raqqa", Townsend said last week.

It is now backing a campaign by Syrian militia allies to encircle and ultimately capture Raqqa, Islamic State's base of operations in Syria.

The attack on the city could happen as soon as coalition partners decide on the makeup of the force, but it will go easier, meaning fewer coalition casualties while the fight in Mosul in ongoing, he said. What are they going to do?

The danger exists that Turkey will use its forces to attack the Syrian Kurds instead of Islamic State.

A US-backed militia alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes Kurdish fighters, is also advancing towards the city, which IS has held since January 2014. About 4,000 ISIS terrorists are located within the city, according to US intelligence. More than 310,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The vote will determine whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will gain greater powers under a US -style executive presidency.

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