Top U.S. official pays secret visit to northern Syria

General Joseph L. Votel, head of the United States Central Command, met with officials from the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) during a secret visit to northern Syrian on Friday (February 24), SDF spokesman Talal Sello said.

“Votel visited areas under our control today Friday and met with several SDF commanders,” Sello said in an online statement.

Speaking to reporters, the top military commander expressed concerns “about maintaining momentum,” adding “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves.”

Votel’s visit to the region comes as the SDF– comprised of Kurdish and Arab fighters and backed by the U.S.-led Coalition – continue their advance towards the Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

The SDF is looking to encircle and isolate the Syrian city as part of the Wrath of Euphrates operation to liberate Raqqa from the jihadist group.

“We want to bring the right capabilities forward,” Votel said.

“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the Special Operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations.”

Around 500 members of the U.S. military are stationed in the north of Syria as part of the coalition efforts in the fight against ISIS.

In his first visit under the new U.S. administration, Votel discussed “developments in the Euphrates Rage campaign and shared military matters,” the SDF spokesman added.