Pentagon confirms US troops enter Raqqa to ‘advise, assist’ in battle with Daesh
The US military has announced that it is acting in an “advise, assist and accompany” role for the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are currently besieging Raqqa, Daesh’s final major stronghold in Syria, APA reports quoting sputniknews.
A media release from military spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon claimed that the American soldiers, who number in the "not hundreds," were not acting in a direct combat role. However, they were working closely with SDF forces and calling in airstrikes on Daesh positions. CNN reported in June that there were 500 US operators in the region, although they did not cite a source.
"They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq," Dillon said, referring to the successful Iraqi siege of Mosul, once Daesh's principle holding in that country. US advisors accompanied the forces that besieged that city as well.
In November 2016, US-backed SDF forces began a campaign to isolate, encircle and ultimately attack Raqqa. US air strikes pounded the city on June 5, and the next day SDF forces poured in. By the beginning of July, Daesh had been pushed back to the old city in the center of Raqqa, where they are currently making their last stand.
Dillon added that Daesh was using commercial drones outfitted with explosives as makeshift bombs against SDF forces, a tactic they had previously employed in Mosul. "Over the course over the last week or two, [drone use] has increased as we've continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center," he said. A trio of Daesh suicide bombings claimed the lives of ten SDF fighters on July 4, according to Daesh's Amaq News Agency.
Two Americans have been killed in the battle so far, although neither of them were US soldiers. Both men, Robert Grodt and Nicholas Warden, were volunteers serving in the Kurdish militia group People's Protection Units (YPG,) which forms the backbone of the SDF forces assaulting Raqqa.
Another YPG fighter, Jake Bruce, said that the United States had provided his militia with "air cover, drones, weapons and ammunitions."
Although Daesh is being steadily pushed back, they still control 65 percent of the city proper, with 50,000 residents still living in an area under the authority of over 2,000 fighters. Daesh captured the city from the Syrian government in early 2013 and has held it since then, but only on July 12 were foreign journalists able to enter the Old City and report on what they saw.
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