NEAR RAQQA, SYRIA — The northern Syrian city of Raqqa is a major stronghold of the Islamic State and is among the places the Obama administration has included in its plan to take back territory from the extremist group, which is also known as ISIS. Local Kurdish forces known as the YPG are putting up a fight against the ISIS militants near Raqqa.
Fighting between YPG and ISIS continues some 48 kilometers north of Raqqa, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. YPG fighters at this post say their position is less than two kilometers away from ISIS militants, and that they are able to respond quickly to halt any ISIS advance.
"They are like teams of five people. They go one by one and attack, but our forces do not let them succeed. We quickly fire back. They usually launch their attacks at night and target residential areas," said a Kurdish fighter.
YPG fighters have their pickets set up here and say they are ready to repel the attacks from IS militants. These fighters are supported by the US-led coalition airstrikes that target Islamic State positions in the area.
YPG forces captured the city of Tal Abyad near Raqqa in June and since then, they have been preparing to take Raqqa too. The United States has sent weapons to the YPG to support its fight against ISIS. The YPG is also getting support from the Democratic Syrian Army in the fight to recapture Raqqa.
“Some other forces are also supporting us in the fight against the Islamic State. We are all preparing for the fight and ready to face IS from all sides. The YPG has proven that it has the capability to succeed. The most important thing is that we are getting weapons and help from the United States," said another fighter.
The offensive to recapture Raqqa has not yet started. While proper preparations and the high morale of the YPG are important factors in the effort to recapture the city, analysts say the real test will be when the actual fight for Raqqa gets underway.