Raqqa, a city some 160 km east of Aleppo, is in the process of being encircled by SDF and US artillery and armored personnel carriers. The Kurds have served as America’s primary ally in the fight against Daesh. Despite US President Donald Trump’s insistence about remaining quiet before launching an offensive, SDF spokesman Talal Silo said, "we expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city."
Trump has vowed to take out Daesh quickly and surgically, saying on numerous occasions, "I would knock the hell out of ISIS," and even suggesting that family members of terrorists should be targets for the military to eliminate as well. The US Marines stationed in the area will not have a front-line role, however, according to US coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian.
In addition to 500 US personnel currently stationed on the ground in Syria, including air crews, ground forces, and special ops service members, Dorrian noted that a further 400-strong deployment has been pouring in during recent days. The fresh troops consist of US Marines and Army Rangers, the US Army’s elite military formation, the colonel said.
Instead of spearheading the attack against Raqqa, US personnel will collaborate and advise local partners, including the Kurdish YPG and SDF, Dorrian said.
In addition to the US-Kurdish-SDF coalition, the Free Syrian Army-Turkey-Saudi Arabia-Qatar coalition, as well as Syrian government forces aided by Russian air support and special ops forces, are all aiming their efforts, at least in public comments, against Daesh.
On Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that US-led coalition airstrikes on targets slightly north of Raqqa, in the rural area, killed 23 noncombatants, eight of whom were children. Dorrian said the coalition is investigating the incident.
The Observatory has also reported that 80 Daesh militants have arrived in Raqqa to push back against an ongoing siege on Raqqa, which the war monitor says is the "main bastion" for Daesh in Syria.