The Raqqa Internal Security Forces assumed security responsibility yesterday for three neighborhoods in the Syrian city of Raqqa, which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had claimed as its capital before being driven out, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said in a statement released Tuesday.
A ceremony in the eastern Raqqa neighborhood of Mishlib marked the RISF’s assumption of the security mission from Syrian Democratic Forces, who liberated the city Oct. 20, officials said.
In addition to Mishlib, the RISF now provides security for Raqqa’s Jazra and Tayar neighborhoods, the task force statement said.
“This ongoing handover is an important step in a process that will allow the SDF to continue fighting [ISIS] elsewhere,” said Army Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, the coalition’s Special Operations Joint Task Force commander. “With the RISF gradually assuming the security mission in Raqqa under the Raqqa Civil Council’s leadership, we continue to have Raqqawis securing and governing Raqqawis.”
The RISF is composed of local volunteers with subordinate sector commanders who are appointed by the Raqqa Civil Council, officials explained. RISF units will provide local security and prevent ISIS’ re-emergence in Raqqa and the local area, they added.
Enabled by the coalition, the RISF continues to expand and train new recruits, with the goal of assuming control of other sectors of Raqqa from the SDF, the statement said. “We will continue to support this local Syrian-led effort, which ensures representative, local governance, good security and full engagement with the tribal leaders and people of Raqqa,” Jarrard said.
The RCC establishes priority of tasks for the RISF, which is currently focused on demining, clearing rubble and providing essential service infrastructure to enable the return of internally displaced persons to their homes. “We need more help from the international community,” Jarrard said. “The RCC leads the delivery of aid to Raqqawis without homes, ensuring they have water, food and shelter. There’s a lot of work remaining, and there is a definite need for international and [nongovernmental organization] involvement.”
Raqqawis have been moving back to Mishlib, Jazra and Tayar areas that have been slowly cleared of improvised explosive devices, officials said. “The task is not yet complete, and the RCC are keen to remind everyone of the need to follow public safety announcements because of the continuing threat from explosive hazards,” the statement said.