Local Syrian forces control 45 per cent of Raqqa: US envoy

A scene from Matthew Heineman’s CITY OF GHOSTS

A scene from Matthew Heineman’s CITY OF GHOSTS

Aggressive steps taken by the Trump administration have brought "dramatically accelerated" gains against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the last 6 months, a top State Department official said.

Offensives by US -backed forces in recent months have reduced IS terrority substantially and led to the liberation of Mosul, the group's self-declared capital in Iraq.

Fawaz Assaf, the head of SARC in Raqqa, said the US-led coalition and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are jointly fighting IS in Raqqa, are implementing the "scorched land" tactic.

"As you know, the campaign against Mosul is now finished and in Raqqa, which I'll talk to in more detail, about 45 percent of Raqqa is now cleared", he continued.

Key changes under President Trump that have brought about the ISIS changes.

In particular, McGurk said, the campaign has benefited from Trump's decision to hand control over to his generals.

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When asked about the possibility, he told TMZ: "I don't know how to dance". But there were still hiccups. "You never know who will be beheaded next".

Those factors are the Trump administration's delegation of key decision-making to battlefield commanders, the tactic of "annihilation" in which the ground forces surround the group in its stronghold so foreign fighters can not escape, and drumming up support for burden-sharing among 73 members - 69 countries and four global organizations - of the broad anti-ISIS coalition.

There is some way to go, however, with ISIS moving much of its assets to the Euphrates River Valley in eastern Syria, according to US intelligence, and the borderlands that split Iraq and Syria. The casualties in this case, however, appear to be overwhelmingly civilians. The coalition investigated the incident and concluded that ISIS had placed booby traps in the building that maximized the damage on impact.

At least 43 civilians were killed on Saturday by a fresh round of US-led airstrikes on the northern city of Raqqa, state news agency SANA reported.

Relevant reports said on Wednesday that the Syrian Air Force bombed ISIL's positions in Southeastern Raqqa, targeting several depots of weapons and munitions.

New reports out of the ISIS capital city of Raqqa say USA airstrikes hit a number of residential districts in the city over the course of Saturday, killing at least 43 civilians and wounding an unknown, but substantial number of others.

The statement went on to name high-ranking ISIL commanders and political leaders, virtually all of them foreigners, who had been killed as a result of pro-government operations in the Southern territories of Raqqa province.

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