MILITARY

General: Extremists plotting attacks on West from Raqqa

  • In this photo provided by the Defense Department, taken Oct. 23, 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter listens as U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq. Townsend, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group says there’s an urgent need to encircle the extremists’ stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa because of intelligence warnings that attacks on Western targets are being plotted there. (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/DoD via AP)

    In this photo provided by the Defense Department, taken Oct. 23, 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter listens as U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq. Townsend, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group says there’s an urgent need to encircle the extremists’ stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa because of intelligence warnings that attacks on Western targets are being plotted there. (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/DoD via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Iraqi army soldiers rest at a checkpoint in Qayara, some 50 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Islamic State militants have been going door to door in farming communities south of Mosul, ordering people at gunpoint to follow them north into the city and apparently using them as human shields as they retreat from Iraqi forces. Witnesses to the forced evacuation describe scenes of chaos as hundreds of people were driven north across the Ninevah plains and into the heavily-fortified city, where the extremists are believed to be preparing for a climactic showdown. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

    Iraqi army soldiers rest at a checkpoint in Qayara, some 50 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Islamic State militants have been going door to door in farming communities south of Mosul, ordering people at gunpoint to follow them north into the city and apparently using them as human shields as they retreat from Iraqi forces. Witnesses to the forced evacuation describe scenes of chaos as hundreds of people were driven north across the Ninevah plains and into the heavily-fortified city, where the extremists are believed to be preparing for a climactic showdown. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo provided by the Defense Department, taken Oct. 23, 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter listens as U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq. Townsend, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group says there’s an urgent need to encircle the extremists’ stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa because of intelligence warnings that attacks on Western targets are being plotted there. (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/DoD via AP)

    In this photo provided by the Defense Department, taken Oct. 23, 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter listens as U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq. Townsend, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group says there’s an urgent need to encircle the extremists’ stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa because of intelligence warnings that attacks on Western targets are being plotted there. (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/DoD via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The commander of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group says there's an urgent need to encircle the extremists' stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa because of intelligence warnings that attacks on Western targets are being plotted there.

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend spoke to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday from his headquarters in Baghdad.

Townsend said the coalition is using airpower to strike available targets around Raqqa, as a first step to spoil the plotting. But it needs to more fully isolate the city soon, he said, to increase the pressure. That will be followed by an assault on the city led by Arab and other local fighters, he said.

Townsend said it's unclear when and where in the West the extremists intend to strike.