DAMASCUS, March 24 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) made a fresh progress on Friday against the Islamic State (IS) group in the countryside of the northern city of Raqqa, a Kurdish official told Mayadeen TV.
The Kurdish-led SDF is on an offensive against Raqqa from different directions, and captured eight villages in the countryside of that area on Friday.
Sharfan Darwish, the spokesman of the Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council (MMC), said the attack focused on the outskirts of Raqqa and the Tabaqa city in Raqqa countryside.
Darwish said there are several powers in the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition that are taking part in the Raqqa battle, whether through aerial support or consultation.
Other Kurdish activists said that the SDF has reached the strategic Tabaqa Dam in the western countryside of Raqqa following battles with the IS militants.
Reaching Tabaqa came only hours after the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday the battle against IS to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa is likely to start in the coming days.
Meanwhile, activists also reported a large displacement movement of the civilians from Tabaqa.
Tabaqa city contains the strategic Dam, which the IS threatens to blow up recently, as well as an airbase used to belong to the Syrian army before the downfall of Raqqa to the IS in 2014.
Observers in Syria believe that the U.S. has placed its bets on the Kurdish groups in Syria to secure its interests.
The push toward Raqqa came just a couple of days after U.S. forces were airdropped on Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria near Raqqa to aid the SDF in their push toward the city.
The ground forces were airdropped after midnight Wednesday in the town of Krein, some five kilometers west of the city of Tabaqa, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The London-based watchdog group said the U.S. ground forces came to help the SDF fighters to cut the road between Raqqa and the northern province of Aleppo, and to isolate Tabaqa from Raqqa city, and thus to tighten the noose on the IS militants in the two cities.
Still, it wasn't the first air drop of ground forces in Syria.
The U.S.-led coalition has recently sent forces to help the SDF near the northern city of Manbij in the countryside of Aleppo.
The U.S.-led coalition also airdropped forces near the eastern city of Deir al-Zour last January, killing 25 IS militants.
But regarding Raqqa, the SDF has for months announced an offensive to separate the city from its countryside and from the IS-held areas in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.
The SDF succeeded to lay a siege on some parts of Raqqa recently.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post said several hundred U.S. Marines have been deployed to Raqqa to assist local forces on the ground in a bid to recapture the city.
The newspaper said that the troops will help in the upcoming battle to oust IS from Raqqa, adding that U.S. Marines will be temporarily stationed at "an outpost from which they can fire artillery guns."
Also this month, the SDF said it has enough forces to capture Raqqa from the IS with the support of the U.S.-led coalition.
"The number of our forces is now increasing, particularly from among the people of the area, and we have enough strength to liberate Raqqa with support from the coalition forces," the SDF spokeswoman, Jihan Ahmed, said.
Joseph Abu-Fadel, a Lebanese political analysis, said that the U.S. aims to take the Tabaqa airbase and make it as a U.S. airbase in northern Syria.