DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 8, 2017, 7:46 PM (GMT+02:00)
EXCLUSIVE: debkafile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment have arrived in Syria for the Trump administration’s first direct military operation in Syria: the long-delayed offensive to capture Raqqa from the Islamic State. The plan was put before the US, Russian and Turkish chiefs of staff who were getting together for the first time on Tuesday, March 7, in the Turkish town of Antalya, as revealed earlier on this site.
Rangers Regiment troops, which will spearhead the Raqqa attack, flew in from Fort Lewis air base, Washington, to the US air facility in Rmeilan, near the Syrian Kurdish town of Hasaka, equipped with light Striker tanks. More tanks and heavy equipment reached the Syrian base overland from Iraqi Kurdistan.
According to our sources, President Donald Trump decided, after consulting with Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, that the US army would go it alone in the Raqqa offensive together with a single local force: the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The SDF is composed of 45,000 fighters of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and 10,000 Arab tribesmen, most belonging to the north Syrian branch of the Shamar.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russian Chief of Staff, and Gen. Hulusi Akar, Turkish army chief, were conferring in Antalya when the Rangers landed in Syria.
DEBKA Weekly, which comes out on Friday, March 10, will provide the background leading up to the US president’s decision to go for Raqqa.
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