The recent liberation of Raqqa by Syrian Democratic Forces aided by the U.S.-led defeat-ISIS Coalition, is a watershed moment in the fight against the terror group that had claimed invincibility.
In the last days of the hard-fought battle for the city deemed by ISIS as the capital of its so-called caliphate, hundreds of ISIS fighters surrendered to the SDF, and years of ISIS cruelty and barbarity in the city ended.
In announcing the victory, Lieutenant General Paul Funk, commander of Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, noted that Raqqa was a fortified prison during ISIS’ occupation:
“Terrorists operated with impunity and stunned the civilized world by televising torture, mass executions, and other unspeakable atrocities.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that while the SDF and Coalition forces continue to ensure ISIS is defeated militarily where it remains in Syria, a new phase is under way, where the United States and its allies are working on stabilization efforts with local partners to provide assistance to liberated areas.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert spoke of the immediate priorities, including providing for the urgent humanitarian needs of internally displace persons - IDPs – who have fled the city to surrounding areas:
“Clearing the explosive remnants of war, such as IEDs and mines, from critical infrastructure such as hospitals, roads, and schools; support efforts to establish basic security; reestablish essential services such as water, electricity, health services; infrastructure rehabilitation to stabilize and promote a return to normalcy and ultimately create the conditions to allow the voluntary safe return of Syrians to their homes.”
The United States, she said, is “also engaged in efforts to support local officials, such as the Raqqa Civil council and the Tabqa Civil Councils, and their efforts to take over responsibility for post liberation security and also governance, on the condition that they are representative, civilian-led, and credible in the eyes of the people they serve.”
The U.S. will also seek to de-escalate violence across Syria. As Secretary Tillerson said, “Reducing the violence in Syria will allow the United States, our allies and partners to focus even more on advancing UN-led diplomatic efforts, within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, aimed at reaching a genuine political transition that honors the will of the Syrian people.”