first published on May 27, 2016 by Will
An AFP video showing U.S. Special Operations troops staging on vehicles just outside of the Islamic State’s Syrian capital city of Raqqa has emerged.
The operators can bee seen sporting beards, Kurdish YPG/YPJ insignia, morale patches, and bearing some pretty sweet weaponry. Though well-armed and supported by coalition air power, the elite troops are having to transport themselves in highly mobile, yet light-skinned pickups, making them vulnerable to IEDs and small-arms fire.
The Western commandos are augmenting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), units composed of Kurds, Arabs, Christians, as well as foreign volunteers from various nations. Up until now, the narrative was that the SOF troops were merely advising, training, and calling in airstrikes for the SDF, however, the head-to-toe full-battle-rattle gear says that at least these specific troops are deep in this fight, to include the very front.
The liberation of Raqqa by the SDF promises to be more complex than merely killing ISIS members. The SDF, although diverse in its ranks, is mostly comprised of Kurdish fighters, while the city of Raqqa is an Arab town in Arab land. The purging of Daesh will be seen by many as an occupation, and risks inciting further jihadists to come to the fight.
It is rumored that there are Western special operations troops currently in northern Syria training up Arab tribes to fight against ISIS. After Raqqa is cleansed of Daesh, it would be wise to move these Arab forces into Raqqa to take over security from the SDF to avoid ethnical strife as well as free up the Kurdish-led group to continue their successful onslaught against the Islamic State elsewhere in Syria. Additionally, a system of governance and leadership will need to be instilled within the city to replace the soon-to-be ejected ISIS shadow government.
The Turkish government is absolutely irate over the ongoing successes of the Kurdish-led group, and the U.S. operators wearing YPG/YPJ insignia is further icing on the cake. It’s not at at all surprising that freshly supplied al Nusra fighters have now intensified their fight against Kurdish groups in Aleppo and Efrin. Nor is it surprising that a fresh ISIS offensive is going unhindered near the Turkish border towns of Azaz and Marea in Aleppo. It seems Turkey is doing whatever it can to stall this advance on Raqqa, to include continuing to rubble the Kurdish Turkish-Syrian border town of Nusaybin, even after the YPS (Kurdish Civil Protection Unit) officially withdrew.