US plans to launch campaign on Raqqa before taking Mosul back from ISIL

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US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks as French Defence Minister listens on during a joint press conference following a meeting with ministers from 12 other countries on October 25, 2016 in Paris.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter indicated on Tuesday that a campaign to take the Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is on track and will overlap with the ongoing Mosul operation.

Speaking with journalists in Paris on the sidelines of a gathering of 13 countries in the US-led coalition to fight ISIL, Carter did not disclose the date of the Raqqa campaign but said that preparations have already started.

Yes, there will be overlap [in the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns], and that’s part of our plan and we are prepared for that,” Carter said.

A senior US military official speaking to reporters traveling with Carter suggested the Raqqa kick-off would likely follow some additional successes in Mosul. He also said military planners would seek to avoid overstretching coalition assistance, which includes air strikes.

I think everything is trending positively, [and] that we should be able to commence that effort some time in the near future,” the official said.

The official also noted that Iraqi Kurdish forces are not comfortable joining the operation to seize the Iraq city. “Truthfully, the Kurds that I’ve dealt with don’t intend — they’re not comfortable going into Iraq. They know they can play a role in shaping and isolating Iraq but it’s not their intent to be involved in the actual seizure of the city,” he said.

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