US-backed forces seized one quarter of Raqqa from Islamic State (IS) forces on Monday, June 26, only three weeks after the beginning of the offensive to retake the city. The US-backed forces, supported by US-led coalition airstrikes and mainly composed of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), have seized the southeastern districts of Al-Meshleb and Al-Senaa, along with western parts of the city such as Al-Rumaniya.
The offensive to retake Raqqa is expected to continue into the coming weeks as SDF fighters move to take the east of the city.
On June 6, a spokesman for the SDF announced that forces had begun the offensive in Raqqa, the de facto IS capital and the group’s last major stronghold.
The SDF is a collection of armed groups backed by the US military. Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) forces account for approximately 70-75 percent of the SDF, with the remaining 20-25 percent coming from Arab militias and a few thousand fighters from other minority ethnic group militias. The YPG has been the most effective local fighting force against IS due to extensive combat experience and preference for fighting IS rather than the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, with most Sunni Arab opposition groups preferring to fight Assad rather than IS. The YPG's involvement in the coalition and recent armaments provided to the group by the US have angered Turkey, a US ally and a primary actor in the anti-IS coalition, who views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed Kurdish group that has fought an insurgency against the Turkish government since 1984. This has severely complicated plans for governing Raqqa once IS is expelled and the overall prospects of a long-term political settlement for ending the Syrian civil war.
Syria has experienced a complex civil war between the President Al-Assad's government and opposition forces since March 2011. The Syrian conflict involves the Syrian government, the Iranian government, the Turkish government, the Russian government, the US-backed coalition, and numerous armed opposition groups with competing goals.
Due to extremely poor security conditions, Western governments generally advise against all travel to Syria, with some countries banning all travel to the country. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to any travel to the country.