30 June 2017

Mattis: After Raqqa, Syrian Battlefield Will Only Get More Complicated

by The Washington Post

As the fight against the Islamic State moves beyond its de facto capital in Raqqa, the Pentagon is readying itself for an increasingly complex battlefield in northern Syria, where U.S.-backed forces, pro-Syrian government troops and Russian jets will likely all be fighting near one another.

Speaking to reporters on his way to Germany Monday to meet with European allies, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis spoke broadly about the U.S. military’s future operations against the Islamic State in the Euphrates River Valley, adding that it will take “more precision” to stave off any incidents between the disparate forces operating there.

“You have to play this thing very carefully,” Mattis said. “The closer we get, the more complex it gets.”

Mattis also acknowledged that the U.S. would continue to supply Kurdish forces in the north with weapons despite objections by U.S. ally Turkey. “When they don’t need them anymore we’ll replace them with what they do need,” he said.

The strip of the Euphrates River Valley that runs through northeastern Syria has turned into one of the last Islamic State redoubts following the group’s near-defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and the U.S.-led operation to encircle its stronghold in Raqqa. While the Pentagon has eyed the region as the next place to attack the militants, Syrian government forces and Iranian-backed militias have also made a concerted effort to move into the area…

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