Small Wars Journal

What Comes After Raqqa?

What Comes After Raqqa? by Yasmin Faruki – Georgetown Security Studies Review

The recent ousting of Daesh from Raqqa by the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) is a welcome victory for the US-led coalition, but upcoming challenges underscore the lack of a clear US strategy in Syria. As Daesh’s former de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa enabled the organization to carry out its most essential functions, including deploying a political administration, training for foreign fighters, and plotting transnational terrorist attacks. In light of recent setbacks, including the loss of its Iraqi capital in Mosul, Daesh is now on its back foot. The US-led coalition should seize the opportunity to solidify coalition gains against Daesh by addressing Raqqa’s post bellum reconstruction and governance, or it will not be able to sustain victories on the ground.

The United States faces many challenges in this regard. The first is defusing tensions over who will control the immediate political administration of Raqqa. The Raqqa Civilian Council (RCC) is currently poised to take over because its sponsor, the SDF, handily retook Raqqa from Daesh. However, the RCC’s ascendancy is worrisome for several indigenous Syrian groups due to its overriding loyalty to Kurdish interests. While the SDF and RCC are technically multi-ethnic organizations, both have predominantly Kurdish constituencies and work closely with the Syrian Kurdish political and military entities, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), respectively. In light of their contributions to the fight against Daesh, Syrian Kurds are likely to seize this unique opportunity to push for territorial expansion and greater political autonomy, further irritating Raqqa’s native Arab residents...

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