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Forces almost ready to retake IS capital: US

Washington, Oct 27 (IANS) US Defence Secretary Ash Carter announced that it will be only a matter of weeks before Washington and its allies are ready to drive the Islamic State (IS) terror group from Raqqa, its self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

Carter told reporters at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that getting troops in place for the siege of Raqqa would be undertaken within weeks but declined to offer more specifics, CNN reported.

The plan “has us generating those forces in a matter of weeks … generating them and positioning them for the isolation of Raqqa,” Carter said.

“That’s what I’m going to say,” he said, adding, “And not many weeks.”

It has been “long planned” that the US-backed assault on Mosul — which started earlier this month — Iraq and Raqqa would be overlapping, Carter said.

The top US commander in Iraq, General Stephen Townsend, told reporters via satellite that it was “imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqa” because intelligence reports showed that there was “significant external operations attacks planning” taking place inside the city.

“We actually aren’t sure how pressing it is, and that’s what’s worrying,” Townsend said.

“We know they are up to something, and it’s an external plot. We don’t know exactly where; we don’t know exactly when.”

Carter said the military has “the resources we need” to undertake the operations in both Mosul and Raqqa at the same time.

“We’re going to win this, and so if there’s anything we need to do to accelerate, I’m prepared to ask for it,” he said.

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