ISIS Struggles to Defend Its Capital in Syria

The Islamic State is struggling to mount an effective defense of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the terror group's headquarters, where local forces are making rapid headway in ousting the militants, the U.S. military said.  

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say they have captured 40% of the city since June 6, when the final assault into Raqqa began. 

“We don’t see any significant counterattacks,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Dirk Smith, a deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition, said in a telephone interview. “I’d characterize them in disarray.”

Since this month's recapture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, Raqqa has become the main focus of the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The battle to win back control of Mosul took nearly nine months.

It’s not clear how many ISIS fighters remain in Raqqa. Some leaders escaped before the offensive began to the city of Mayadin, southeast of Raqqa on the Euphrates River. “ISIS made a strategic retreat,” said Andrew Tabler, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Smith said U.S. airstrikes and surveillance support have helped weaken the militants in Raqqa, leaving them confused and unable to effectively defend the city.

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