US forces have been leading and advising a coalition with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to surround the city, which has been held by ISIS forces since January of 2014. SDF spokesman Talal Silo said “We expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city.”
The US military will not have a front line role, but officials have told the Washington Post that a Marine artillery unit will be bombarding the city from several miles away.
Officials estimate that 3,000-4,000 enemy militants currently occupy Raqqa. A recent airstrike by coalition forces recently hit a village southeast of the city, killing 23 civilians – including eight children – according to activists. It is unknown at this time how many enemy combatants were killed in the airstrike, and US forces have said “We do everything that we can to avoid civilian casualty incidents.”
“We have had what I would describe as a pretty relentless air campaign to destroy enemy capabilities and to kill enemy fighters in that area already,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian of the Raqqa campaign. “That is something that we are going to continue and intensify with this new (artillery) capability.”
Dorrian said that the US artillery will “expedite the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa,” describing their efforts thus far as “going very very well.”
This escalation in US involvement comes after the Trump administration told The Associated Press that they plan to give Pentagon officials more freedom to make bigger calls than the Obama administration typically allowed. The US is also currently prepping a 1,000 troop-force to serve as a reserve force in Kuwait.
US officials have thus far said that the 900 US ground troops will only be in Raqqa “for a temporary period.”
Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. His less-political Youtube channel can be found here. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW