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Turkish, US military leaders agree plan against IS in Syria

ANKARA, Nov 6 (KUNA) -- Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford hammered out a long-range plan for operations against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
During their meeting at the headquarters of the Turkish General Staff here on Sunday, the two men agreed that the US-led coalition and Turkey will work together on the long-term plan for retaking Al-Raqqa governorate, east Syria, from IS.
They also exchanged views on the presence of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Manbij town, to west of Aleppo city, and the fight for the IS-held Mosul city, north Iraq, as well as other regional challenging issues, according to a statement by the General Staff.
The operation against the IS in Syria has already begun, even as operations against the terror group continue Mosul in Iraq, Dunford told reporters following the meeting.
"As this operation in Syria continues, the United States will continue to work with the Turks and others to determine the make-up of the forces that actually seize Raqqa and hold it and govern it," he said.
The SDF has been a concern for Turkey since the inception of the anti-IS group last year. Originally composed primarily of Kurdish personnel, it is now more multiethnic and is actively pursuing operations against IS hold of Raqqa. "The SDF are moving south to isolate the enemy that's in the vicinity of Raqqa and in Raqqa," the general said. "We always advertised that the isolation phase is going to take months," Dunford said.
The SDF is making sure the IS forces that are in Mosul cannot reinforce the IS forces in Raqqa, and that the force in Raqqa cannot conduct external operations "into Turkey, into Europe and into the United States," Dunford explained.
"We are going to limit their freedom of movement now even as we work on a long-term plan that is more viable for holding Raqqa," he went on.
"We always knew the SDF wasn't the solution for holding and governing Raqqa," Dunford said, adding: "What we are working on right now is to find the right mix of forces for the operation." The right mix is for local tribes and other people from the vicinity of Raqqa to spearhead the operation and remain to hold and govern the city once it is taken from IS, Dunford added. (end) rs.gb