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Counter-ISIL Operations Aim to Isolate Raqqa

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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KEY WEST, Fla., March 9, 2016 — Coalition operations continue to isolate the Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said Syrian Democratic Front forces and Iraqi security forces are working to prevent ISIL from using Raqqa as a planning hub or an area from which the terror group can launch attacks.

Latest Operations

The latest operations are aimed at breaking the connection between Raqqa and Mosul, Iraq, -- the largest city that ISIL controls.

“Those operations are ongoing,” Dunford said. “If you look at what the [Kurdish] peshmerga did in Sinjar and look at the operation in Shaddadi, the effect of those operations is to cut the lines of communication between Raqqa and Mosul.”

This continues the plan announced last year to increase pressure on the terror group across Iraq and Syria, the chairman said

Raqqa and Mosul are the two centers of gravity for ISIL, Dunford said.

“We are increasing the number of folks that we are supporting on the ground -- in this case the Syrian-Arab Coalition,” he said. “Right now we don’t have a timeline for the operation for when we will take Raqqa. It’s going to be conditions-based -- based on the size of the force we have, based on enemy dispositions, and of course, there is some other work being done both east and west of Shaddadi to consolidate the operation so far.”

“This is all part of tightening the noose on ISIL in Syria,” the chairman said.

Dunford was in Key West to visit Joint Interagency Task Force - South officials at Key West Naval Air Station. Previously, he attended March 8 meetings in Miami with U.S. Southern Command leaders.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)