ISIS moves its capital in Syria
According to U.S. defense officials, ISIS has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria.
In the wake of increased airstrikes and pressure applied from three directions by U.S.-backed Syrian forces, ISIS has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria, U.S. defense officials told Fox News.
ISIS is now centered in Deir el-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.
U.S. military drones have watched hundreds of ISIS bureaucrats, or administrators, leaving Raqqa in the past two months for
the city of al-Mayadin located further down the Euphrates River from Deir el-Zour where U.S. Central Command announced that it killed mid-level ISIS operative Abdurakhmon Uzbeki.
The looming battle for Raqqa is imminent but the so-called ISIS government is no longer there, according to officials.
Now that Turkey's constitutional referendum has been completed, U.S. military officials hope to forge ahead with a more aggressive plan to assault Raqqa in the near future. A major sticking point of NATO-ally Turkey is the use of Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG which for years the Pentagon has called the best fighters on the ground against ISIS. Turkey has claimed the YPG is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, a group labeled a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the head of the U.S.-led coalition based in Baghdad, said last month that Syrian Kurdish fighters would participate in in some form or fashion in the operation to retake Raqqa.
There are other looming questions about whether the Pentagon will supply heavy weapons to the Kurdish fighters over objections from Turkey. The speed at which fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) can get into Raqqa depends on their access to heavy weapons, according to U.S. officials. While there is an Arab component to the SDF, American officials admit there are not enough of them.
Last week on a visit to the United States, Turkey's Minister of Defense Fikri ISIK visited Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the Pentagon before the referendum vote. Ahead of their meeting, both ISIK and Mattis ignored shouted questions from a reporter about the role Syrian Kurdish fighters would play in the upcoming Raqqa battle.
Source: Al Alam