“I do not think the siege of Raqqa will be as long as Mosul,” says Awad, an Arab fighter in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who belongs to a military unit attacking Raqqa, the de facto capital of Isis in Syria. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he says that “we are advancing quickly and the geographical nature of Raqqa is different from Mosul”.
The SDF has launched the crucial battle for Raqqa, a city with a population of 300,000 on the north bank of the Euphrates, after a long delay imposed by threats of military intervention by Turkey, which denounces the 45,000-strong SDF as “terrorists” dominated by the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish priority is to prevent the consolidation of a quasi-independent Kurdish statelet in northern Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim today hinted strongly at Turkish military intervention, saying that “we will immediately give the necessary response if we come across a situation in Raqqa … that threatens our security”.