Top US general says Raqqa battle will take months

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An Islamic State fighter in Raqqa. File photo

ARA News

Army General Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said on Friday that the battle for Raqqa –ISIS’s de facto capital in Syria– will take months.

“We are not going to make any time estimates on this. You just watched what took place in (Mosul), a city of 1.6 million, 1.7 million people. It took nine months. Raqqa is probably 300,000 to 400,000 people, but it’s in an area that again has had a long time to prepare and the forces we are operating in Syria are different than the forces we are operating with in Iraq,” he said.

“We’re not talking about the Iraqi army that has ministries to lead it. Now we are talking about a much more indigenous force made up largely of Syrian Arabs and Kurds — and Kurds are part of that indigenous force. They don’t have all the trappings of a big army, so I think it is important for people to understand the context of what we are doing here,” Gen. Votel said in an interview with Tampa Bay Times.

“A large city, an indigenous force, a well-prepared enemy. And by the way, an enemy now that has suffered a significant defeat, so they are running out of space there. We would expect they are going to fight harder, and more aggressively than they are and a large part of that is going to be exploited again. So I think it is going to be a challenging fight and it will take months,” he stated.

Also, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters on Friday that Raqqa will be a difficult fight.

“It’s going to be a tough fight, and — granted, we’ve made more progress than some of you forecast months ago,” he said.

“You know, in the press they were talking about how long it would take us to get there, and we wouldn’t have much progress if we got there, if we didn’t have enough of the opposition.  But we’ve made progress,” he said.  “But believe me, this is a very tough fight.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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