Trump ditches Obama plan to retake Raqqa

Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

President Donald Trump’s administration dropped plans by former President Barack Obama to arm the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their dominating force, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), in order to recapture the Islamic State’s de-facto capital in Syria, Washington Post reported on Thursday.

According to the newspaper, Turkey was the first choice in launching the assault plan on Raqqa, which was calibrated for more than seven months. However, Ankara prioritised the fight against Kurdish forces over fighting the caliphate, followed by removing President Bashar al-Assad. After two years of tensions between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Barack Obama, the US turned to the SDF and an offensive against Raqqa seemed close.

But the White House under Obama was divided – would the move spark even greater tensions with Ankara? The issue delayed until Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. – the highest-ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces – finally concluded that Turkey would not provide the necessary military power to recapture the capital of the self-proclaimed Caliphate.

On 17 January – only three days before the inaguration of President Donald Trump – President Obama’s national security adviser handed over to Trump’s team a detailed plan to arm the SDF/YPG together with points the new president could use to explain the action to President Erdogan, who they knew would be enraged.

But Trump’s national security team did not meet Obama’s hopes of sticking with the plan of seizing Raqqa. “[The Obama Administration] provided the information, but we found huge gaps in it,” said a senior Trump administration official. “It was poor staff work.”

After ditching the Obama plan, a new one will be developed by the Trump administration, according to the Washington Post. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Pentagon on Friday.

US-supplied armored vehicles were delivered to the SDF on Tuesday but Colonel John Dorrian said they were transferred to the Syrian Arab Coalition, also a component within the SDF, and not to the Kurdish YPG.