US Announces Formation of Local Council to Run Raqqa

Published May 4th, 2017 - 01:00 GMT
Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces stand amongst black abyays discarded by women escaping Daesh territory. (AFP/Ayham al-Mohammad)
Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces stand amongst black abyays discarded by women escaping Daesh territory. (AFP/Ayham al-Mohammad)

A council of local members who live in and around Raqqah, Syria, will rule the city after it is cleared of Daesh, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

US-led coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian told a news conference from Baghdad the Raqqah Council will establish essential services for residents but said he was not sure if Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would be associated with the council.

“At this point, the Raqqa Council -- essentially, the formation of the group, is about what's been accomplished,” he said. “So as far as who's involved and what their actions are, I don't have a lot of detail.”

There are approximately 3,000 to 4,000 Daesh fighters in Raqqah, including foreign fighters and various leadership figures, and around 50,000 SDF members in the region, according to Dorrian.

The U.S. and its coalition partners began attacks in late 2014 against the de facto Daesh capital to oust the militants.

The formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) nearly two years ago saw the U.S. develop a cooperation with the PYD and its armed wing, YPG, whose fighters are included in SDF ranks.

Washington's partnership with the PYD/YPG has vexed Ankara, which views the group as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK. Turkey, the U.S. and the EU view the PKK as a terrorist organization.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Dorrian made a faux pas by saying, “with regard to the PKK, they are a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces“.

The spokesman corrected his wording when alerted by a journalist; however, as recently as last year, the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center's (NCTC) website referred to PYD as the PKK's "Syrian affiliate" on a profile page that was modified following an Anadolu Agency story.

The Pentagon said last week that U.S. forces operate "in close proximity with" SDF fighters in northern Syria, including near the Turkish border.

Officials in Turkey and Syria, who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said the PYD/YPG makes up the upper echelons of the SDF and the bulk of its fighting force.


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