Tue May 9, 2017 04:49PM
US Defense Secretary James Mattis
US Defense Secretary James Mattis

US Defense Secretary James Mattis says the United States will work with Turkey to liberate the Daesh-held northeastern Syrian city of Raqqah.

"Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another to take Raqqah down," Mattis said on Tuesday while speaking at a news conference following an anti-Daesh summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"We are going to sort it out and figure out how we are going to do it, but we are all committed to it,” he added.

The US military has said that talks are underway with Turkey on the role Ankara might play in the operation to liberate Raqqah, which Daesh has held for more than two years.

Last month, Turkish fighter jets bombed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces in Syria fighting against Daesh militants, drawing rebuke from the US State Department and the Pentagon.

This file photo shows an F-16 fighter jet of the Turkish Air Force in flight. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkey says YPG fighters are linked to Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, who have killed more than 40,000 people in Turkey since 1984.

The Turkish military said the April 25 attacks centered on Mount Sinjar in Iraq and Mount Karakoc in Syria.

The strike in Syria reportedly hit the area, where the headquarters of the US-backed YPG forces are located, killing and wounding an unspecified number of fighters.

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militants have largely surrounded Raqqah and are expected to begin an offensive soon. It is not yet clear what role the YPG militia will play in the operation.

US military provides air support members of the SDF - a Kurdish-dominated and anti-Damascus alliance.

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish militants, advance in the village of Sabah al-Khayr on the northern outskirts of Dayr al-Zawr as they drive to encircle the Daesh stronghold of Raqqah on February 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

"The tactical activities on the ground -- I don't want to go into details right now," Mattis said.

"We examined the enemy situation and discussed the next steps to make sure we are all on the same sheet of music. We are going to further accelerate this fight," Mattis said after the Copenhagen summit.

This is despite the fact that Washington has stressed that any US- or Turkish-backed military offensive against Raqqah must be coordinated with the Syrian government otherwise it would be illegitimate.   

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 Pentagon has said more US troops might be needed in Syria to step up their so-called campaign against Daesh.

Since March 2011, the US and its regional allies, in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, have been conducting a proxy war against Syria. The years-long conflict has left hundreds of thousands of Syrians dead and half of the country’s population of about 23 million displaced within or beyond its borders.