US-led Coalition returns to Syria’s Raqqa after years of withdrawal

RAQQA, Syria (North Press) – The US- led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS has returned formally to the city of Raqqa, north Syria, after years of withdrawal.

A high-level delegation from the US and US-led Global Coalition visited, on Oct.20, Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) building in Raqqa after participating in the 5th anniversary of the expulsion of the Islamic State Organization (ISIS) from the city.

The delegation was headed by Nikolas Granger, US Senior Representative to Northeast Syria, and he met officials of the AANES and Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) after participating in the fifth annual anniversary of ISIS expulsion from Raqqa in 2017.

On October 17, ISIS was expelled from Raqqa the self- proclaimed capital of the so-called caliphate by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported from the air by the US-led Global Coalition.

Granger told North Press, “On behalf of the United States of America and the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS, it is my honor to be here today.”

“Today on the fifth anniversary of liberation of the city of Raqqa, I am happy to be in this place,” he added.

He went further saying that he is a “symbol of our continuing partnership together with the people of northeast Syria to fight against terrorism and to build a better future.”

On October 17, US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS recalled the fifth anniversary of the liberation of Raqqa. Raqqa for years used to be a strong bastion of ISIS.

The Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) greeted in a tweet struggling shown by the people of northeast Syria, saying, “We honor the resilience demonstrated by the people of NE Syria.”

The CJTF-OIR expressed their pride for the sacrifices of the SDF, “We’re proud to partner w/ them.”

Withdrawal and return

Prior to the Turkish military operation “Peace Spring” into northeast Syria in October 2019, the coalition withdrew troops from bases it held in the cities of Raqqa, Tabqa, Kobani and Manbij.

However, after it evacuated one of its bases in Kharab Ishk, in the countryside of Kobani, the coalition returned again to the base several times, using it as a staging point for operations against extremist groups and ISIS in northeast and northwest Syria the most notable of which was the murder of ISIS leader Abdullah Qaradash.

Early in 2022, the coalition and SDF carried out a wide-scale operation in Raqqa in which 27 members of the ISIS sleeper cells were captured.

55 ISIS militants have been arrested in the city since 2022, the coalition revealed.

The coalition indicated as well that SDF was able to defuse 250 explosive devices ISIS planted while controlling the area, seize hundreds of weapons, contributing to the security strength in the region and the safety of its people.

News has been circulated about the coalition’s returned to Raqqa, Tabqa and Kobani, according to observers, however, neither the coalition nor the SDF have made any commentary yet.

Such moves owe to dangers posed by ISIS sleeper cells to the region and the necessity of fighting and eliminating the organization, emphasizing the need to continue supporting SDF to preserve peace and stability in northeast Syria, according to the coalition statements.

Battles which resulted in the expulsion of ISIS from Raqqa caused immense destruction in the city, some put it at 80%.

According to the United Nations figures, 11.000 buildings were either destroyed or damaged between February and October 2017, including 8 medication centers, 29 mosques, and more than 40 schools and five colleges in addition to the damaging irrigation system in the city. 

Residents of Raqqa place responsibility for reconstructing the city on the coalition’s shoulders.

Raqqa, according to an Amnesty International report publicized in 2020, was described as one of the most destroyed cities in modern times.

In a report, demanded by Pentagon, it was revealed that the US Army could have minimized damages caused to civilians during the battle of Raqqa in 2017.

Reporting by Qais Al-Abdullah