>> The offensive to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa has begun. Islamic State's defacto capital and a hub for planning attacks against the West. It lies to the east of Syria's second city Aleppo and it's fall will be the militant group's biggest loss. The militants' aim of building a caliphate is crumbling as the group is driven out of Iraq and Syria.
Raqqa has been their headquarters since 2014. Forces began encircling the city in November, they face a tough battle ahead. A spokesman from the militia says, they believe Isis will fight street to street, and have dug tunnels under the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates there are over 2000 IS fighters in Raqqa and up to 170,000 civilians.
The offensive, led by the SDF, an alliance of militia groups including Arab and Kurdish fighters, has raise alarm bells in Turkey. The umbrella group includes the Kurdish militia group, the YPG. The US decision to arm them has angered Ankara. Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, considered a terrorist group by the US, Turkey, and Europe.
Experts believe Islamic States will be defeated militarily before the year is up. They've nearly been pushed out of Mosul in neighboring Iraq. A fight that's taken months longer than expected. Stamping out their ideology however, is a battle with no time frame.