Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa, Syria August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
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The inexperienced fighters in an Arab group battling to take Raqqa back from Daesh (ISIS) are playing a secondary role to hardened Kurdish militia in the campaign for their home city. The performance of one lightly trained group seen by Reuters in Raqqa underscored the difficulty of making Arabs the "vanguard" in the battle for the mostly Arab city, as the United States said last year they would be.Arab fighters hope for a long-term role in Raqqa's security.Another YPG commander said last week that the SDF had surrounded Daesh in central Raqqa, but predicted that the battle could last up to four more months.U.S. coalition forces have trained more than 5,000 Arab fighters since the Raqqa campaign began in November, spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said. The current number of Arabs in the SDF is around 24,000 with 31,000 Kurds, he told Reuters.A YPG commander acknowledged that the Kurdish militia was playing a leading role in Raqqa, but played up the part played by the Arab forces, saying it showed there was no ethnic approach in the operation.Khalil's unit has about 50 fighters, all from districts around Raqqa's Old City walls.
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