Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), walk in the town of Tabqa, about 55 kilometres (35 miles) west of Raqa city, on May 18, 2017. AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN
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The United States is looking ahead toward a decisive battleground in its bid to destroy Daesh (ISIS), even as U.S.-backed local forces must still finish the fight for the militants' two main strongholds in Iraq and Syria.American forces would support a group of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces driving southeast along the Euphrates from Raqqa toward Deir al-Zor, said the officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly on the military details and demanded anonymity.Deir al-Zor presents an especially tricky challenge because the Syrian military has a base there and the U.S. has avoided tangling with President Bashar Assad's forces other than an April 7 cruise missile strike.The complexities of the campaign in Syria were illustrated by an unusual U.S. airstrike Thursday against what the Pentagon described as Syrian pro-Assad forces near Al-Tanf military camp close to the Jordanian border. U.S. special operations forces have been working there with a Syrian opposition group against Daesh.
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