On the front lines of the fight for the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa

Source: The Washington Post

By Liz Sly

“Raqqa we are coming” say the words spray-painted in Kurdish at the entrance to this empty little town, which lies on the front line of a U.S.-backed advance toward the Islamic State’s capital.

The city of Raqqa is 17 miles away, a tantalizingly short hop to the place showcased in the militants’ propaganda videos as an Islamist utopia, where the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels were planned and where, U.S. officials warn, new plots against the West are being forged.

But a full offensive to retake the city could still be months or more away, despite hopes in Washington that an operation to take the Islamic State’s most symbolically significant stronghold would be well underway before President Obama left office.

A rare visit to the Raqqa front line illustrated how near and yet so far the defeat of the Islamic State remains. The battle for Mosul in neighboring Iraq has stalled, the attack in Berlin has brought home the continued threat of terrorism, and there is still no plan for an offensive on Raqqa, making the war one of the most immediate, and complicated, challenges the Trump administration will have to confront.

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