- Title: U.S. envoy to anti-IS coalition says local forces must lead assault on Raqqa
- Date: 6th November 2016
- Summary: AMMAN, JORDAN (NOVEMBER 6, 2016) (REUTERS) U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE GLOBAL COALITION TO COUNTER ISLAMIC STATE, BRETT MCGURK, ENTERING NEWS CONFERENCE PHOTOGRAPHER (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE GLOBAL COALITION TO COUNTER ISLAMIC STATE, BRETT MCGURK, SAYING: "So the announcement today came from the Syrian Democratic Forces which is a coalition of Kurds and Arabs. And when it comes to Raqqa I want to make very clear it is our principle priority throughout this campaign that the vanguard of the force that takes major territory from Daesh (Islamic State) should be locally based forces. So when it comes to Raqqa we want force that ultimately liberates Raqqa that is primarily from the local area - Arabs from the area. And so we have trained many of these fighters and that force will continue to grow as we get to the subsequent phase of the campaign. We of course work very closely with the Syrian Democratic forces when they are fighting Daesh. We do provide air support. It has to be coordinated." REPORTER ON LAPTOP (SOUNDBITE) U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE GLOBAL COALITION TO COUNTER ISLAMIC STATE, BRETT MCGURK, SAYING: "We do not coordinate with the government of (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad. We have no relationship with the government of Bashar al-Assad. We believe that so long as Bashar al-Assad is in power the civil war which is basically destroying the western side of that country, and it is destroying most of Syria, will continue and so we absolutely absolutely will not coordinate with the government in Damascus as it is presently constituted so absolutely not." MCGURK LEAVING NEWS CONFERENCE
- Embargoed: 21st November 2016 17:27
- Keywords: Islamic State Raqqa Syria Brett McGurk Jordan
- Location: AMMAN, JORDAN
- City: AMMAN, JORDAN
- Country: Jordan
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA00157B3PS7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The United States on Sunday (November 6) said the offensive to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State must include locally-based fighters at the forefront of the campaign.
Earlier on Sunday an alliance of U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab armed groups known as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced it had begun operations to assault Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria on Saturday (November 5). The SDF said they had set up a command centre to coordinate with the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadists.
But speaking at a news conference in Amman, the United States envoy to the coalition said it was Washington's "priority" that a Raqqa campaign include local fighters in its "vanguard".
"When it comes to Raqqa we want force that ultimately liberates Raqqa that is primarily from the local area - Arabs from the area," Brett McGurk told reporters. "And so we have trained many of these fighters and that force will continue to grow as we get to the subsequent phase of the campaign."
McGurk acknowledged the United States would be coordinating air strikes with the SDF, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG - its main partner on the ground in Syria.
Planning for the Raqqa offensive has been complicated by factors including Turkish concerns about expanding Kurdish influence in northern Syria. Turkey has said Raqqa would be targeted in its own operation against Islamic State in northern Syria, which it is waging with Syrian Arab rebels.
The SDF said on Thursday (November 3) it had rejected any Turkish involvement in the Raqqa campaign. The Turkey-backed rebels fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner and the YPG and its allies are hostile to each other, and have clashed repeatedly.
The new offensive ratchets up pressure on Islamic State at a critical moment, with its fighters already battling an assault by Iraqi security forces on their remaining Iraqi stronghold, Mosul.
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