A Fraction Of Mosul, Syria's Raqqa No Less Challenging

A Fraction Of Mosul, Syria's Raqqa No Less Challenging by Sarah el Deeb - Associated Press

A month into the battle to capture the Islamic State group's self-styled capital, U.S-backed Syrian forces have encircled the militants inside Raqqa, breached their fortified defenses and inched closer to the heart of the city. Yet the battle has barely begun.

More than 2,000 militants are holed up with their families and tens of thousands of civilians in Raqqa's center, the city's most densely populated quarters.

Although a fraction the size of Iraq's Mosul, Raqqa's urban warfare may prove as grueling, and those fighting the extremists risk being dragged into side battles with other groups in Syria's complex civil war.

In Raqqa's case, the Syrian Kurdish militia that is the main U.S. ally against IS has been rattled by Turkey's mobilization on the other side of the country. Turkey is threatening to launch an offensive against a Kurdish enclave in western Syria with the help of Syrian opposition fighters. Turkish troops have mobilized near the border, and the recent Turkish shelling of Kurdish villages killed at least three civilians.

Kurdish officials warned that Turkey's moves threaten to derail the Raqqa campaign by forcing the Kurdish militia to redeploy to defend its enclave.

Syria observers also point to the lack of capabilities and training of the U.S-backed Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, compared to the Iraqi troops battling IS militants in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh province since August…

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