In any event, Stratfor writes that the Raqqa effort is real:
But just how close [the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)] is able to get to the heart of the city will be determined by one thing: its ethnic composition. Raqqa is a city with an Arab majority. Because the SDF and its backers want to not only retake the city but also to hold and govern it, they will need a sizable Arab force if they hope to achieve their objectives with local support. However, the SDF is currently dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which have been effective against the Islamic State in territory they are familiar with in the north and northeast but are less inclined to spearhead operations farther south toward Raqqa. Moreover, the deeper the Kurds push into overwhelmingly Arab territory, the more they risk cementing local populations' suspicions of the rebels and support for the Islamic State.
Still, Arab fighters have been joining the SDF's ranks in droves. In fact, training these Syrian Arab Coalition fighters is one of the core purposes of the 250 U.S. special operations forces deployed to Syria in April, and Votel was likely checking up on their progress during his visit to the country. (The general subsequently traveled to Turkey to reassure Turkish officials of U.S. support for the SDF.)
Once the Syrian Arab Coalition grows to the ideal size and strength, and final preparations are complete, the SDF will shift its offensive to a direct attack on Raqqa. Because the Islamic State will not give up the city without a fight, the ensuing battle will likely be expensive and lengthy, easily lasting weeks if not months.
I've noted that the Kurds are unlikely to want to die to liberate Arab territory. Which is understandable. But we seem to be doing a better job of training Arab forces there than we have in the past programs to train Syrian rebels.
Note too the claim is that Arabs living under ISIL don't want to be liberated by Kurds. Which seems just odd to me. ISIL may be sons of bitches but they are our fellow Sunni Arab sons of bitches?
Nothing is simple in this region.
The SDF will have plenty of our air power to help, of course.
With ISIL then fully engaged in holding their capital and Iraqi forces cleaning out ISIL in Anbar's cities; if I was Lord of CENTCOM, I'd launch the offensive to liberate Mosul while jihadis are dug in fighting for their lives in Syria and on the run in Anbar.
Oh, and in what is surely a bit of coincidence, the Iraqi Kurdish front in the north near Mosul seems more active:
Servicemen from the U.S.-led coalition were seen near the front line of a new offensive in northern Iraq launched on Sunday by Kurdish peshmerga forces that aims to retake a handful of villages from Islamic State east of their Mosul stronghold.
Really, is our strategy to defeat ISIL in Syria first to Assad's benefit and send the ISIL forces fleeing to Iraq where they would reinforce the Iraqi front?
We claim we are far from H-Hour for the Mosul offensive, by why put our firebases in the field so far ahead of the end of the year?
And if we are near, we would want to pretend to be far, wouldn't we?
Come on, ISIL doesn't have that many troops. And they seem to be having morale problems.
We really can carry out offensives on multiple fronts against these chuckleheads.
And taking our time about defeating ISIL could have consequences, don't forget.
[As a side note, I ran across a post of mine from August 2012 predicting that a war against jihadis in eastern Syria would be our next theater in the war on terror. And here we are. I forgot about that post.]