U.S. Officials Say Sizable Arab Force Identified For Raqqa Campaign by Gordon Lubold and Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal
The U.S.-led coalition in Syria has amassed an Arab force it considers large enough to move the fight against Islamic State into the city of Raqqa, U.S. military officials said, which would represent a significant advance after months of scrambling to find enough fighters for the crucial battle.
The U.S. military now has counted as many as 23,000 men in northern Syria who identify themselves as Arab and say they are willing to fight Islamic State, according to multiple officials familiar with the situation on the ground inside Syria.
Some Arab rebel groups allied with the U.S.-led coalition question the U.S. assessment of the number of Arabs who would be ready to join the fight against Islamic State in Raqqa. U.S. military officials concede that assessing the number of forces on the ground is a challenge, given limited numbers of U.S. special operations forces inside Syria, but repeatedly confirmed the 23,000 figure.
The offensive also may not start soon because of deepening tensions in the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, which has a long border with Syria. The two governments have been at odds over Washington’s alliance with a Kurdish militia in Syria that Ankara considers an offshoot of an internationally designated terror group in Turkey. Amid this mistrust, a closer relationship has developed between Turkey and Russia, increasingly a U.S. rival…