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WASHINGTON – The U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition is not supporting a Turkish-planned offensive to seize a city in northern Syria held by the terrorist group, an American military spokesman said Wednesday.

Syrian rebel fighters backed by Turkish ground and air forces are on the verge of reaching the city limits of Islamic State group-held al-Bab, but the Operation Inherent Resolve coalition has not provided those forces any support because Turkey planned the offensive without coordinating with its allies, said U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the coalition.

“We believe that all the operations in Syria against [the Islamic State group] should be coordinated very closely between all the parties that are involved,” Dorrian told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon. “This is something that [Turkey] decided to do independently. What we’d like to do is to continue to work with them to develop a plan where everyone remains focused on [the Islamic State group].”

Turkey expects the operation will be over quickly. The country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday his forces had faced some resistance from the militants, but he did not expect the siege “will last long.”

The coalition’s concerns are based on potential fighting after the Islamic State group is removed. The presence of Turkey and its rebel forces in an area also eyed by Kurdish forces could lead to battles among groups that have committed to fighting the terrorist organization. Several Kurdish groups around al-Bab, including elements of the U.S.-backed YPG, have periodically fought with the Turkish backed forces in northern Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and has long rejected its inclusion in the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main ground force fighting the Islamic State group in Syria. The United States does not consider the YPG a terrorist group and leaned heavily on it in the fight against the Islamic State.

The U.S.-led coalition had provided air support for prior Turkish-led operations focused on eliminating the Islamic State group from areas just across its southern border with Syria, but concerns about sporadic fighting between the NATO ally and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces have raised tensions in the region.

The United States had also provided some special operators as advisers to Turkey and its Syrian partners in those operations, but they have since been removed from those groups, Dorrian said.

Negotiations between Turkey, a member of the U.S.-led coalition, and other coalition members are continuing, Dorian said. He urged all of the partner nations to commit to working together.

Meanwhile, the coalition’s air power over Syria is primarily focused on supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces’ march toward Raqqa, where it is tasked with encircling and isolating the Islamic State group’s capital.

That force has reclaimed more than 200 square miles of land north of Raqqa this month, and its operation has continued “as planned,” Dorrian said.

The coalition expects to address Turkey’s concerns in continued battle planning for the eventual assault on Raqqa, he added. It could be at least several weeks before that offensive begins.

“We’re still working out the details for that overall effort,” Dorrian said. “It has yet to be determined what role Turkey might have.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.
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