France’s optimism on Raqqah recapture far from reality: Russia

March 26, 2017 2:27 pm

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov (Photo by AP)

has rejected the
US-led coalition’s “rosy forecasts” on surrounding and swiftly retaking
the Syrian city of from Daesh, saying any such victory could only
be achieved through concerted cooperation among all parties fighting
terror in the Arab state.

Igor Konashenkov, the Russian
Defense Ministry spokesman, was reacting on Saturday to comments by
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who claimed the “very hard
but essential” battle for Raqqah was just days away.
Le Drian had
said Friday, “Today, one can say that Raqqah is encircled, that the
battle for Raqqa will start in the coming days.”
Konashenkov further said Le Drian’s “optimism” has “no relation to reality or the situation on the ground.”

“It
is clear to any military specialist that the liberation of Raqqah will
not be a walk in the park for the international coalition,” said the
Russian official, adding that the duration and success of a Raqqah
battle would depend on coordination among “all the forces fighting
international terrorism in .”

Raqqah was one of
the first major cities that fell to Daesh in 2013, when the terror group
emerged in Syria. The northern city serves as the extremist group’s
operational command headquarters.
France is a partner in the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh terror group in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Players on the Raqqah scene
Syrian
government troops, backed up by Russian airpower, have been pushing
against Daesh from the west of Raqqah, where up to 4,000 Takfiri
terrorists are estimated to be based.
In a separate operation,
which began in November 2016, US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces, called
the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have been squeezing the terror group
from the north.
In their latest gains against Daesh around
Raqqah, the SDF forces managed to retake the military airport south of
the Tabaq town.
The US has also deployed hundreds of troops to
northern Syria to “support “ SDF forces. AFP cited a Pentagon official
as saying last week that an additional 1,000 military personnel could be
dispatched to the area in the future.
Another party on the Raqqah
front is the Turkish military, which is helping a separate group of
militants in northern Syria. Ankara and the Washington-led alliance are
at odds over the role of Kurdish militias in the Raqqah offensive.
The
Turkish and Western military presence in Syria comes without the
consent of the central government in Damascus, which slams the
uncoordinated intervention as illegitimate and a violation of its
sovereignty.
On Friday, Syria’s UN ambassador and chief negotiator
in peace talks, Bashar al-Ja’afari, said “those who are truly fighting
Daesh are the Syrian Arab army with the help of our allies from Russia
and Iran,” adding that “arming factions in Syria and encouraging them to
challenge the authority of the state does not serve the fight against
terrorism.”
Coalition failure in Mosul
Elsewhere
in his remarks, Konashenkov drew attention to the anti-Daesh front in
neighboring Iraq, where government forces are trying to liberate the
northern city of Mosul, Daesh’s last urban stronghold, in the Arab
state.

“Similar rosy forecasts on encircling and the
quick victory of the coalition in Iraq’s Mosul have already turned into
considerable losses in the Iraqi forces and a growing humanitarian
catastrophe,” the Russian military official warned.

The
comments come days after reports said over 230 civilians, including
women and children, were killed under collapsed buildings in Mosul due
to a mid-March US airstrike, which triggered a massive explosion in a
residential neighborhood there.
The US and its coalition allies
have been widely criticized by both Syria and Iraq for falling short of
their announced objectives in their so-called anti-Daesh offensive.
The
US military is also suspected of helping Daesh extremists by
airdropping weapons in territories held by them in the face of advances
by government forces. 
According to monitoring group Airwars, at
least 2,463 civilians have been killed in US-led airstrikes in Iraq and
Syria since the start of operations in 2014.

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