Turkey proposes US two plans to take Raqqa: reports

Joseph Dunford (right) and Hulusi Akar (left) meet at Incirlik airbase, 17 February 2017, (c) AA

Turkey has proposed two separate plans to the US to take Islamic State (IS) stronghold Raqqa in northern Syria, reported Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on Saturday.

The plans were set out in a Friday meeting between Turkish General Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and his US counterpart Joseph Dunford at Incirlik military airbase.

According to Hurriyet, which based its report on military sources, Turkey’s primary plan envisages Turkish and US special forces, backed by commandoes and Turkey-back Syrian rebels cutting through Tel Abyad (Gire Spi) and travelling 100km (60 miles) south to Raqqa.

This plan would require for the US to convince the Kurdish YPG, which controls Tel Abyad, to allow for Turkish and FSA elements to cross the area. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and has been adamant that the force not be involved in the capture of Raqqa from IS.

However the YPG is one of the main components of the 50,000 strong Kurdish-Arab majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which, with support from the anti-IS coalition, launched the Wrath of Euphrates operation last November and is now at the outskirts of the city.

Turkey’s alternative but less likely plan Hurriyet reported is to push towards Raqqa from al-Bab, a town the Turkish army and rebel militants have struggled to wrestle from the IS group.

The newspaper said Turkey would source at least 10,000 Syrian and Arab troops trained at two camps in the country to use in the operation.

Developments regarding the Raqqa operation are eagerly anticipated by all sides in the conflict as the US, according to analysts, tries to appease both its NATO-ally Turkey and what it sees as the best fighting force on the ground against IS, the SDF and YPG.