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France Talks Washington into Overlapping Mosul, Raqqa Offensives against ISIS | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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ISIS fighters parading through the streets of Syria’s Raqqa in 2014. AP

Paris- France succeeded in convincing the United States with taking a final and outspoken stance on fighting terror group ISIS after the two-week-old offensive in the Iraqi city of Mosul is over.

The siege against Mosul will likely overlap with a campaign against Syria’s Raqqa, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday, signaling that a push to isolate the group’s Syrian bastion may not be very far off.

Speaking at a joint press conference with French counterpart Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Carter said that preparations to isolate Syria’s Raqqa are in action.

“We’ve already begun laying the groundwork with our partners to commence the isolation of Raqqa,” said Carter.

Initial operations to retake ISIS group’s capital in Raqqa, Syria, are underway and likely to overlap with the assault launched 10 days ago to drive the terror group out of Mosul, Carter added.

“The next step is Raqqa,” Le Drian said, declining to go into detail after the meeting with 11 other coalition defense ministers.

Representatives from around 20 countries including the United States, Turkey, Iran, Gulf states and EU member states attended the Paris meeting co-chaired by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The Pentagon has long hinted that the assault on the two de facto capitals of the ISIS group would occur simultaneously, but in recent weeks most of its pronouncements have been focused on the Iraqi security forces’ readiness to retake Mosul.

French President Francois Hollande also warned that ISIS hardliners could flow out of Mosul to Raqqa and potentially onwards to Europe, as he called for greater intelligence sharing.

“Daesh must be eliminated everywhere. Any stronghold represents a threat,” he added, referring to the group by its Arabic acronym.

European leaders have expressed worries that the battle to retake Raqqa had not yet begun.

The long-awaited offensive on Mosul was launched last week, with some 30,000 troops involved in Iraq’s largest military operation since the pullout of U.S. troops in 2011.