Coalition envoy visits Syria, praises bravery of SDF forces fighting ISIS

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Kurdish YPG fighters participating in the SDF operations against ISIS in northern Syria. File photo

ARA News

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition Brett McGurk visited Syria on June 28-29. While touring the front he consulted with local partners and allies in the campaign against ISIS, inviting them back to Washington for follow-up meetings.

In a statement released on Friday, the US-led coalition reported that the Presidential Envoy and his staff were “working intensively with myriad local entities to prepare for this transition, even though, as Mr McGurk noted throughout his visit, the battle to liberate [Raqqa] city has just begun.”

Brett McGurk “credited the bravery and sacrifice of the Syrian Democratic Forces in their ongoing operations against ISIS” and “held intensive discussions with local leaders and councils on post-liberation governance issues.”

“He also witnessed first-hand the humanitarian and stabilization assistance that is underway in the liberated areas north of Raqqa, and […] met with the Raqqa Civilian Council to discuss stabilization efforts in post-ISIS Raqqa,” according to the coalition’s statement.

McGurk met with several SDF officers and Layla Mohammed, the co-head of the Raqqa Civilian Council. In those meetings, he stressed that “once Raqqa is liberated, it is critical that local officials from the area take over responsibility for post-liberation security and governance.”

Lieutenant General Steve Townsend and Major General Rupert Jones accompanied McGurk throughout his whirlwind tour. Coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillo explained that generals Townsend and Jones “as commanders, typically and routinely move around in both Iraq and Syria to get updates from other commanders in the field.”

McGurk also visited Tabqa city, which was liberated from ISIS on May 10. “While the city is still digging out from the terror of ISIS and the month-long battle to liberate it, Mr McGurk met with local leaders coordinating assistance that has begun to flow, such as food deliveries, hygiene kits, relief items, and chlorine to provide safe drinking water,” the coalition said.

“He also visited the Tabqa Dam, which ISIS terrorists held for three years as a headquarters and fortress,” the coalition added. “Since the dam’s liberation, it has been cleared of mines and work is underway to restore its operations to deliver electricity to surrounding areas. Mr McGurk credited the courage of those who have worked to clear land mines and IEDs left behind by ISIS throughout Tabqa.”

In the meantime, the US-led coalition is redoubling its humanitarian efforts, providing support to the thousands of IDPs that fled into the SDF-held cantons, from Raqqa and other areas under ISIS, regime and rebel control. The Coalition is prioritizing the re-establishment of basic security and essential services.

“As we accelerate our campaign and territory is liberated from ISIS, the United States and other Coalition partners are supporting the UN and the NGOs who are working to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations,” the Coalition explained.

“It is critical that we remain closely linked with partners on the ground to coordinate both military and civilian efforts to sustain momentum against ISIS,” it added.

In his two-day visit, McGurk emphasized the importance of unity of effort and local control of liberated areas following the ‎defeat of ISIS. Concluding, the Coalition’s statement said the Brett McGurk “looks forwarding to welcoming all members of our coalition to Washington for meetings at the political directors level in July to organize and coordinate the next phases of our global campaign.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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