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Life After the Caliphate: What Does the Future Hold for Raqqa After Daesh?

© REUTERS / Rodi SaidSyrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter walks near vehicles carrying people fleeing clashes in Tweila'a village and Haydarat area, north of Raqqa city, Syria November 8, 2016
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter walks near vehicles carrying people fleeing clashes in Tweila'a village and Haydarat area, north of Raqqa city, Syria November 8, 2016 - Sputnik International
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The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of Kurdish and Arab militias, do not intent to remain in Raqqa once they push Daesh out of its key urban stronghold, Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Sputnik Turkey, adding that democratic autonomous rule could also be an option for the embattled Syrian city.

"Armed forces will leave the city after the victory is secured. They will transfer the city's administration to local civilian authorities. Raqqa's civilian council has already become operational. Local administration has been in charge of liberated areas," he said.

Muslim suggested that a "democratic autonomy" could be created in post-Daesh Raqqa.

"If the city is liberated, civilians will feel relief. This will be a milestone for northern Syria, the entire country and Raqqa's population. Local civilians will become free. They will be able to create their own system of government. A democratic autonomy could be created in Raqqa. Local civilians will be able to determine their own fate," he narrated.

US soldiers stand near military vehicles, north of Raqqa city, Syria. File photo - Sputnik International
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The Syrian Democratic Forces and the People's Protection Units (YPG) launched Operation Euphrates Rage (or Wrath), aimed at isolating and eventually freeing Raqqa in November. Muslim described the ongoing campaign as a success.

"We have recently taken the Tabqa airbase under control. This development will have major implications for the region. Earlier, government-led forces had tried to seize the airbase, but failed. The Syrian Democratic Forces successfully carried out the operation. The SDF will advance further [toward the city]. The fighting is ongoing. Raqqa's liberation is currently on the agenda," he explained.

The SDF pushed Daesh out of the Tabqa airbase on Sunday. US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters are currently engaged in combat operations aimed at tackling the internationally-condemned group in the city of Tabqa and taking control of the nearby hydroelectric dam, the biggest in the country. Once these missions are complete, the SDF will be able to advance toward the de facto capital of Daesh's caliphate.  

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters, raises a flag of the SDF near the village of Bir Fawaz, 20 km north of Raqqa, during their offensive towards the Islamic State (IS) group's Syrian stronghold as part of the third phase retake the city and its surroundings, on February 8, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Muslim did not provide the exact date when the operation aimed at pushing Daesh out of their key urban stronghold is scheduled to begin, but said that the military assault on the city proper is expected to be launched in April. Earlier, YPG commander Sipan Hemo said that the offensive could begin in early April. Up to 17,000 fighters are expected to take part in the campaign.

Although the operation aimed at liberating Raqqa is far from being over, many have speculated what the SDF's next target could be. Muslim refrained from naming specific locations, but said that Kurdish forces are determined to fight until the end.

"I have no idea where the SDF will carry out its operations once Raqqa is liberated. There is no doubt that all of Syria must be freed from Daesh. The SDF aim is to liberate all of Syria from Daesh and the like," he said.

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