BEIRUT (Reuters) – Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the coalition against Islamic State visited north Syria on Wednesday and met the council planning to run Raqqa after its capture from the jihadists to assure it of support, one of its members said.
The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that began fighting inside Raqqa three weeks ago.
The SDF announced the creation of the Raqqa Civil Council in April to replace militant rule in a city that has for three years been Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.
McGurk has met the council in Ain Issa in north Syria twice before in meetings that were not publicized, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council, Omar Alloush, said.
Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the coalition, said coalition members are routinely in northern Syria working with the SDF and other local entities including the council. He could not confirm McGurk’s visit on Wednesday and referred queries to the special envoy’s office.
Alloush said McGurk and other coalition officials, including its deputy commander Major General Rupert Jones, promised infrastructure help but did not discuss how much money was available.
“They did not specify any sum, but they decided we will support first removing mines, lifting rubble, maintenance of schools, then electricity stations and water,” Alloush said.
This month, volunteers at the council told Reuters they had informed the coalition it would take about $10 million a year to restore power and water supplies, roads and schools.
(Reporting by Tom Perry; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Louise Ireland)