Almost a year after the US campaign to capture Raqqa from ISIS, there is still strong terrorist presence in the city.
On October 19th, PressTV reported that the city is still dealing with the fear of the return of ISIS members, who were forced out by the US-led campaign.
According to the outlet, there are numerous reports that show a number of terrorist elements already still in the northern Syrian city.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are reportedly unable to handle infiltration of ISIS sleeper cells, due to supposedly lacking the expertise to deal with the issue.
“We are exhausted. Every day we don’t know if we will die in a bomb explosion or if we will go home safe and sound,” Abu Younes was cited by AFP.
According to him, the US-backed forces were unprepared for the situation and that there is ample opportunity for terrorists to sneak in the city. “There are faults that enable Daesh [ISIS] to infiltrate the city easily and carry out attacks,” he said.
PressTV cited several of the residents of the nearly destroyed city who were afraid of going outside and that every morning citizens wake up to the sounds of explosions. According to some of them, the increased military presence is due to the fear of ISIS returning.
At the entrance of the city soldiers verify drivers’ identity papers and carefully sift through luggage. Regular foot patrols and armored vehicles sit at strategic points. Even women wearing niqab are asked to show their faces to female security members before entering public buildings.
The lack of significant security operations in the city is also due to the complicated nature of the relationship between the Kurdish-dominated SDF and the Arab population.
The city is also almost entirely destroyed and numerous civilians were killed in the US-led attack on it. Amnesty reports clearly said that Washington hides the real number of civilian casualties.
Raqqa was declared the capital of the terrorist caliphate it started to build in Iraq and then in Syria in 2014.
After the city’s liberation from ISIS, Russia and Syria strongly condemned the cost of the campaign, which even included carpet bombings. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government said that “more than 90%” of the city had been razed to the ground due to “the deliberate and barbaric bombardment.” The government also considers Raqqa still occupied, until it is entered by the Syrian Arab Army.
“Raqqah has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the Earth by Anglo-American bombardments,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenko said last year.
The situation in Raqqa can be compared to Iraq’s Mosul, which was also recaptured from ISIS. The Iraqi army retook it and then followed up with actively carrying out security operations. Normality in the city has somewhat returned and the reconstruction is ongoing. Aleppo is another example of a city recaptured from al-Qaeda. Humanitarian and security conditions are improving.
The slow progress of Raqqa could be due to US opposition of the reconstruction of Syria. Washington is in no hurry to spend funds to restore the US-occupied part of Syria.
Additionally, The US strongly opposes any aid or support provided to rebuilding of government-held areas. The US maintains that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government is illegitimate and all areas under its control should not be supported by the UN. Interestingly, the US has also provided little to restore the parts that are not under Syrian government control.