Kurdish Woman Leads 30K-Strong Offensive to Conquer ISIS in Their Capital

The operation has begun to retake Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State -- and it's a Kurdish woman commanding the Syrian Democratic Forces who could take the city that brings down the caliphate.

The operation called Wrath of Euphrates launched Saturday night and was announced by the SDF alliance today at a press conference in the Syrian town of Ain Issa. The SDF includes nine armed groups including Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians, and the force pressing down on Raqqa is reportedly 30,000 strong with 80 percent of the fighters originally from the city.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement that he welcomed the SDF's announcement "that the operation to free Raqqa from ISIL's barbaric grip has begun."

"The effort to isolate, and ultimately liberate, Raqqa marks the next step in our coalition campaign plan. As in Mosul, the fight will not be easy and there is hard work ahead, but it is necessary to end the fiction of ISIL's caliphate and disrupt the group's ability to carry out terror attacks against the United States, our allies and our partners," Carter said.

"The international coalition will continue to do what we can to enable local forces in both Iraq and Syria to deliver ISIL the lasting defeat it deserves."

Multiple Kurdish news accounts reported U.S. Special Forces soldiers on the ground assisting the SDF.

The Pentagon has said it wants a near-simultaneous operation against the Syrian ISIS stronghold as Iraq forces are battling for control of Mosul, the largest city controlled by ISIS in Iraq. Late last month, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, said the Raqqa op should be launched as soon as possible "because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is significant external operations attacks planning going on... centralized in Raqqa."

Operation spokesman Col. John Dorrian told reporters a few days ago that he didn't think "all the forces that'll be involved in that liberation campaign for Raqqa are yet trained" by the United States -- but he noted that training "for people that have already been involved in some fighting before so they're not just a bunch of rookies" can take as little as two weeks.

SDF commander Rojda Felat said that in the first day, the Wrath of Euphrates offensive pushed more than 6 miles toward Raqqa from Ayn Issa, a town some 34 miles north of Raqqa, and advanced nearly 7 miles from Saluq, a town about 53 miles northeast of the ISIS capital.

“Including the villages of Wahid, Om Safa and the hamlets of Qirtaja, Wasta, Haran and Jera, many villages and hamlets have been liberated," Felat said, according to Kurdish Hawar news agency. "Car bomb attacks against our forces were foiled in this region. Vehicles were destroyed with the [ISIS] gangs inside them."

The commander noted that morale is high among her forces as they barrel toward Raqqa.

In a June interview with a Kurdish newspaper, Felat vowed that "wherever there is an attack against humanity we, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, will be there; wherever there is a suppressed woman, that is a battleground for us."

She stressed that there are "very many" women's units under the SDF umbrella, including Arab and Assyrian women fighters, and "people are joining the SDF and YPJ [Kurdish Women's Defense Units] by the droves."

"Not only for the women of Shengal (Sinjar -- Yazidis), wherever a woman is being suppressed, wherever a man is threatening a woman, our forces will struggle against this. Our struggle for the liberation of our people will become a beacon for all resisting peoples," she added.

Felat noted that "our male friends are used to this path and are not surprised by this anymore; they respect and support us." As far as their male enemies, ISIS fighters believe they won't be admitted into paradise if they're killed by a woman.