By Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thousands of U.S.-backed fighters in Syria are launching an offensive to capture from Islamic State a crucial swathe of northern Syria known as the Manbij pocket following weeks of quiet preparations, U.S. officials disclosed to Reuters. The operation, which only just started to get underway on Tuesday and could take weeks to complete, aims to choke off Islamic State's access to Syrian territory along the Turkish border that militants have long used as a logistics base for moving foreign fighters back and forth to Europe. A small number of U.S. special operations forces will support the offensive on the ground, acting as advisors and staying some distance back from the front lines, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military planning.
A German craftsman forges a small blade in a workshop where sparks are flying, water is gushing and business is good, thanks to a worldwide revival of the straight or cut-throat razor shave. "At our place, most work is done by hand," says a proud Ulrich Wiethoff, director of the Dovo factory, as he wanders past workers who polish, sharpen, varnish and package the razors. The small enterprise was established as Dovo Steelware in 1906 in Solingen, Germany's 'blade capital', whose craftsmen made swords and daggers in the Middle Ages and are now better known for knives and cutlery.