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Who will liberate Raqqa?

The United States says a military operation to isolate the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa needs to get underway within weeks, but Turkey as well as Washington’s Syrian Arab allies oppose any plan to use Kurdish forces to take the city.
A U.S. fighter, who is fighting alongside with Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), carries his national flag as he stands with SDF fighters in northern province of Raqqa, Syria May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RTX2EIZN

WASHINGTON — US military officials say an operation to isolate the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa should get underway within weeks, warning that intelligence shows planning is taking place there for external terror attacks. The officials said the only capable local force to work with in such an operation in the near term is the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). But the officials acknowledged that intense consultations with Turkey in recent days, including a phone call between US President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 26, had not resolved the matter of Turkey’s intense opposition to using Kurds in any operation to take the IS stronghold in Syria.

“We think there's an imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqa because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is significant external operations attacks planning going on, emanating … centralized in Raqqa,” the top US commander in Iraq and Syria, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, told journalists in a satellite press briefing from Iraq on Oct. 26.

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