July 13, 2017 - 11:07 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - United States military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqa, the Islamic State group's last major bastion in Syria, a U.S. official said Wednesday, July 12, according to AFP.
The troops, many of them special operations forces, are working in an "advise, assist and accompany" role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle IS, said Colonel Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.
The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in air strikes and are working closer to the fight than did U.S. forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.
"They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq," Dillon said.
He said the numbers of U.S. forces in Raqa were "not hundreds" and that they had been working closely with SDF fighters since operations to encircle Raqa began.
After months of capturing villages and surrounding terrain, operations to liberate Raqa started in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city.
With help from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF this month breeched an ancient wall by Raqa's Old City, where diehard jihadists are making a last stand.
The SDF are a Kurdish-Arab alliance that is being trained by coalition experts and armed by the United States.
Dillon said the coalition had seen IS increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The jihadists employed a similar tactic in Mosul.
"Over the course of the last week or two, it has increased as we've continued to push in closer inside of Raqa city center," he said.