People living in the city can finally get back to their normal lives
By Declan Murphy and Nick Peters
The Syrian city of Raqqa, which was until recently the headquarters of ISIS in Syria, has been retaken by a U.S.-backed group. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared victory over ISIS on Tuesday. In their press conference on Friday, a spokesperson for the SDF linked the victory in Raqqa to ISIS’s defeat in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this year. It is hoped that these victories will restore stability in the two nations ravaged by ISIS.
Raqqa has been under ISIS control since 2014, where it fell to Islamic group during the Syrian Civil War. Many fled the city when ISIS took control, including a majority of the Christian population. ISIS soon after taking the city named it as their capitol of their caliphate. For three years now, the people who remained in the city have been living under the oppressive law of ISIS. People in the city have attempted several uprisings in the city since it fell.
The battle for Raqqa began in June. A joint operation was launched against the city, with SDF soldiers leading a ground assault on the city, with support from U.S airstrikes. These airstrikes targeted ISIS outposts in order to weaken them. Since then, the SDF has fought continuously on the ground to liberate Raqqa. In the process, SDF suffered 655 casualties. Countless more people were displaced by the battle, which contributed to Syrian’s significant refugee crisis.
Through fierce fighting, SDF, by the beginning of August, had taken back half of the city, and by September, they had seized control over three-fourths of the city. Still, fighting continued all over the city, as SDF slowly pushed in on the last remaining holdouts of ISIS resistance. Ultimately, though, SDF was able to triumph over ISIS and completely secure the city.
This is a momentous event in the fight against ISIS. While the group is likely to remain active in the region, liberating Raqqa will force ISIS to go back underground. Further, it cuts off a major source of revenue, as the group had been using Raqqa’s resources as a way to raise funds, particularly through the sale of oil. By returning Raqqa to Syrian control, the SDF has limited ISIS’s ability to operate.
Of course, the liberation of Raqqa brings new challenges. Much of the city was destroyed in the fighting, and needs to be rebuilt. The reconstruction will be a long and costly process. The Syrian government is soliciting international donors to fund the reconstruction efforts. However, now after three years, the people of Raqqa can begin to return to their normal lives.
This is the first step at restoring peace in Syria, but much more needs to be done. ISIS may be in retreat, but the organization still has guerilla forces throughout Syria that need to be defeated. Further, the damage done by the fighting will take years to fix. Nonetheless, the liberation of Raqqa is a major victory against global terror.