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US: Assad regime hindering victory in Raqqa

Civil defence members carry out search and rescue works after the Assad regime carried out air strikes in Syria on 6 October 2017 [Enes Diyab/Anadolu Agency]

The Syrian regime is hindering and delaying the liberation of Raqqa by attacking and blocking US-backed opposition forces surrounding the city, the White House said yesterday.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, spokeswoman and White House press secretary, alleged that “instead of focusing on fighting ISIS [Daesh], the pro-regime forces attacked our partners and attempted to block them from liberating the Syrian people from the brutality of ISIS.”

According to the Pentagon, over 90 per cent of the capital of Daesh’s self-proclaimed state has been captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led alliance and the main opposition group backed by the US.

After the “stunning fall of Mosul” this summer, Daesh has been rapidly losing ground in both Syria and Iraq, and its former stronghold of Raqqa “will mark the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian conflict”.

Read more: Defeat of Daesh in Raqqa may herald wider struggle for US

This is not the first claim that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has obstructed the liberation of Raqqa: in August, a meeting was held between US and SDF officials regarding the regime’s threats as well as the future of Raqqa after the defeat of Daesh. The coalition decided to coordinate with Russia to prevent any attempts by Al-Assad to hinder the Raqqa campaign.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, the US has been opposed to the Assad regime and originally aimed for its downfall, but in March this year the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that America’s “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out”.

Back in August, the US also ordered its local allied groups in Syria to cease all attacks against the regime and focus on defeating Daesh, prompting one opposition group to leave the coalition and conduct independent operations against the Assad government.

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