The Battle for Raqqa and the Challenges after Liberation by Hassan Hassan - CTC Sentinel
Abstract: The operation to dislodge the Islamic State from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa comes at a time of considerable change in the country’s conflict. As the Syrian government and allied forces make steady gains throughout the country, regional and international backers of the opposition have shifted focus away from the original goals of removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and toward dealing with the dangers emanating from militias, which they perceive as a greater threat to their national security. The Syrian rebels are locked in northwestern and southwestern Syria, while al-Qa`ida’s offshoot is increasingly tightening its grip on Idlib, the main rebel stronghold. In this context, the areas that once constituted the caliphate of the Islamic State are emerging as a critical battlefield for various forces vying for expanded influence. Raqqa and the Kurdish-dominated forces fighting in the city are now the epicenter of a new chapter for the Syrian conflict.