Pentagon signals further support to SDF ahead of Raqqa operation


U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Dunford said yesterday that arming the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) would be effective in retaking Raqqa from DAESH.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the GOP-led Senate Armed Services Committee, where they faced questions from Republicans on the Obama administration's foreign policy on Syria and the strategies in ending the five-year civil war.

"Arming the Syria Democratic Forces would improve our chances of success in retaking Raqqa from Islamic State [DAESH]," Dunford said.

Dunford added that the U.S. authorities are working with Ankara to find the best strategies for the operation in liberating Raqqa.

Ahead of testifying before the Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a defense hawk and one of President Barack Obama's most vocal critics, said he anticipated the hearing will be contentious because of mounting frustration among lawmakers over a lack of a coherent strategy for ending the conflict.

Meanwhile, although Turkey has repeatedly called for a no-fly zone, the Obama administration has resisted, unwilling to wade too deeply into an intractable conflict.

The failure to establish a no-fly zone in the country's north to protect Syrians from the bombing has been a mistake, according to Graham, and he also criticized the reliance on Kurdish fighters the U.S. has been supporting in the fight against DAESH.

Arming the People's Protection Units- (YPG) led SDF has been a matter of disagreement between Washington and Ankara as Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian wing of the PKK terror group.

The PKK is recognized as a terror group by the United States, as well as the European Union.

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