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A Pentagon plan for the coming assault on Raqqa, the Islamic State capital in Syria, calls for significant U.S. military participation, including increased Special Operations forces, attack helicopters and artillery, and arms supplies to the main Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighting force on the ground, according to U.S. officials.
The military’s favored option among several variations currently under White House review, the proposal would ease a number of restrictions on U.S. activities imposed during the Obama administration.
Officials involved in the planning have proposed lifting a cap on the size of the U.S. military contingent in Syria, currently numbering about 500 Special Operations trainers and advisers to the combined Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. While the Americans would not be directly involved in ground combat, the proposal would allow them to work closer to the front line and would delegate more decision-making authority down the military line from Washington.
President Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to expand the fight against the militants in Syria, Iraq and beyond, received the plan Monday after giving the Pentagon 30 days to prepare it.
But in a conflict where nothing has been as simple as anticipated, the Raqqa offensive has already sparked new alliances. In just the past two days, U.S. forces intended for the Raqqa battle have had to detour to a town in northern Syria to head off a confrontation between two American allied forces — Turkish and Syrian Kurdish fighters. There, they have found themselves effectively side by side with Russian and Syrian government forces with the same apparent objective.
Outgoing French President François Hollande said in European newspaper interviews published on Monday that his "ultimate duty" was to prevent a victory of far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen in this year's presidential election.
"My ultimate duty is to make sure that France is not won over by such a programme, and that France does not bear such a heavy responsibility," said Hollande of the risk of a Le Pen victory in the upcoming election.
"There is a threat" of Le Pen winning the election, Hollande acknowledged in comments.
He added it was inevitable that the European Union would have countries progressing at "different speeds" and that he saw no reason to call into question Donald Tusk's role as president of the European Council.
He also said the "euphoria" of financial markets after the election of U.S President Donald Trump appeared to be "very premature".
The interview was published in Le Monde, La Stampa, TheGuardian, La Vanguardia, Suddeutsche Zeitung and Gazeta Wyborcza.
Election surveys and forecasts for the first round of French presidential elections, set to be held on April 23, show that FN's candidate Le Pen leads the poll with around 27 percent of vote intentions, with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron coming second.
However, projections for the run-off, scheduled on May 7, indicate a likely Macron victory when pinned against the FN leader Le Pen.
2017.03.06 / 16:24