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US Airdrop of Forces in Raqqa Draws New Sphere of Influence | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A member of the Kurdish police known as the Asayesh observes enemy positions from a lookout point in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah during ongoing fighting with regime forces on Aug. 22, 2016. DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP

Beirut, London- The US-led international coalition against ISIS conducted on Tuesday night an airdrop of US forces and local allied fighters near the city of Tabqa in the northern province of Raqqa, opening a new front in the operation aimed at recapturing the stronghold of ISIS in Syria.

The US Department of Defense said the international coalition supported the offensive with air movement and logistical support, precision airstrikes, close-air support by Apache helicopters, Marine Corps artillery and special operations advice and assistance to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) leadership.

Sources following up developments in the region said the US airdrop came to support Arab members of the SDF, which includes a majority of Kurdish fighters backed by Washington.

The sources added that one of the targets of the operation is to tighten the noose on ISIS in the two cities of Raqqa and Tabqa, and prevent regime forces from launching an attack from Deir Hafar town, in the eastern suburbs of Aleppo, towards the Tabqa airport.

“This new development will draw new borderlines to the sphere of influence in the region,” Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said the presence of US forces and their allies in the area would prevent regime forces from advancing in the direction of the southern suburbs of Raqqa city.

“It will also prevent regime forces from controlling the Taqba military airport,” Abdel Rahman said.

SDF sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that members from the Kurdish internal security force, Asayesh, also took part in the airdrop, adding it was the second joint landing operation between US forces and the Kurds.

At the battlefront, fighting in Damascus was still heated on Wednesday.

The Syrian opposition Sham Network news agency said: “Despite their counter-attack, Assad forces and his militias failed to register any advancement, only adding to their previous losses at the level of military equipment and soldiers.”

Regime forces called for military reinforcements to the area.

Meanwhile, the fifth round of indirect peace talks kicks off in Geneva on Thursday between regime representatives and the opposition.

However, hopes to produce any progress remains limited.