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US, Kurds to clear path toward Raqqa, with or without Turkey

Because of Turkey's objections to Kurdish involvement, operational plans against the Islamic State keep changing.
Fighters from the Democratic Forces of Syria drive to position themselves in Ghazila village after taking control of the town from Islamic State forces in the southern countryside of Hasaka, Syria February 17, 2016. Picture taken February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said  - RTX27JLU

More fronts are opening up against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, government forces conducting probes against Mosul, which has been under IS control for two years, are also working to liberate Fallujah, while in Syria a major operation is underway against the IS stronghold of Raqqa.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and its women's brigade, the Women's Protection Units (YPJ), launched an operation north of Raqqa with US air support May 24, immediately after US Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Joseph Votel's visit to Kobani, Syria and Ankara. Two Syrian towns on the border with Turkey, Jarablus and al-Rai, are IS' only gates to the outside world and figure highly in the plans, as their loss would be a serious blow to IS. The United States, however, postponed YPG plans to liberate Jarablus because of Turkey's red line against the Kurds, focusing instead on Manbij. But when negotiations with Ankara over Manbij did not proceed in the desired manner, plans shifted to rural Raqqa.

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