ANKARA, Turkey, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Turkish and U.S. military leaders agreed on a long-term plan to seize and hold the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, the U.S. Defense Department announced.
The statement Sunday quoted U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, who after meeting in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, said, "The [U.S.-led] coalition and Turkey will work together on the long-term plan for seizing, holding and governing Raqqa."
Dunford said the meeting was called to coordinate joint action in several locations, including Mosul, Iraq, where a battle for the city held for two years by IS is in progress.
Referring to Turkey, which has recently had a strained diplomatic relationship with the United States, Dunford added, "Obviously as a close ally, we really just want to make sure that we're completely tight as we work through some challenging issues. We always knew the [Syrian Democratic Forces] wasn't the solution for holding and governing Raqqa. What we are working on right now is to find the right mix of forces for the operation."
He added his meeting with Akar was part of a promise that the coalition would not proceed with the battle for Raqqa "without incorporating the Turks and their perspective into our plans. They will be helpful in identifying the right forces to do that."
Raqqa, a city of about 200,000 in northern Syria, is regarded as the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria. Dunford's visit stressed cooperation with Turkish forces; it came as the Syrian Democratic Forces, assortments of militia groups including several Kurdish organizations regarded as terrorists by Turkey, announced they were gaining ground in recapturing Raqqa, and expect U.S.-led airstrikes to aid them.
A Washington official confirmed the start of the campaign, called "Euphrates Rage," and said forces will first attempt "to isolate Raqqa, to set the stage for an eventual assault on the city itself to liberate it."