Wed Mar 1, 2017 7:10PM
The new Pentagon chief and US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis (L), is welcomed by Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend upon his arrival in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, February 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The new Pentagon chief and US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis (L), is welcomed by Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend upon his arrival in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, February 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A US commander says talks are under way with Turkey on the role Ankara might play in the operation to liberate Syria's Raqqah, a city under the control of the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

US Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the US forces purportedly fighting Daesh, was speaking via video conference from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to a Pentagon news briefing on Wednesday.

"We are engaged in discussions with the Turks on how they might participate in the liberation of Raqqah and I don't know what the numbers of their participation might be," media outlets quoted the US military official as saying.

Washington currently has about 500 Special Operations troops in Syria. However, their activities have been limited to what the Pentagon describes as training and assisting Kurdish forces in their battle against Daesh and other terrorist groups.

The US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) are said to be engaged in operations to drive terrorists out of Raqqah. They dominate the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic anti-Damascus alliance.

Recently, another US commander, General Joseph L. Votel, said more American troops may be needed in Syria to step up their so-called campaign against Daesh.

Votel, the commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), has also secretly visited northern Syria to meet US-backed militant groups.

Read more:

In early February, Turkey's Hurriyet daily reported that Turkish military chief Hulusi Akar had presented his American counterpart, Joseph Dunford, with two plans for an alleged potential operation to liberate Raqqah.

The Turkish Air Force and special ground forces kicked off their operation inside Syria last August in a declared bid to rid the border area of Daesh terrorists and Kurdish militants.

Turkish army tanks make their way toward the Syrian border town of Jarabulus, August 24, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

The operation was not coordinated with the Syrian government, which has described it as a violation of its sovereignty.

Turkey's invasion has also been fiercely opposed by the SDF, which is dominated by Kurdish fighters.

After capturing the northern Syrian city of al-Bab in Raqqah province from Daesh, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the next target for the Turkish offensive should be the city of Raqqah, which is already encircled by different fronts, including Kurdish militias, the Turkish military and Syrian army forces.

Syrian army troops and allied fighters have been fighting terrorists since 2011.

Terrorists from Daesh were among the militants who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize Syria.