With ISIS all but eliminated from Syria, the US has been trying to transition its strategy into an open-ended military presence, with an eye toward picking a fight with Iran, and imposing regime change on the Assad government at some point.
That strategy looks to be in tatters today, as Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria seems to be changing the situation on the ground in such a way as the US military presence may no longer be sustainable.
Turkey’s invasion as threatening to overrun all of the Kurdish YPG’s territory, and all of America’s deployments in Syria are within YPG territory, often embedded with YPG forces. This is setting the stage for a US clash with Turkey, as Turkey demands the US withdraw from Manbij, a YPG-held city.
Manbij is the demand right now because it’s the next target, but with Turkey telegraphing attacks on everywhere else in the country, the US is going to be ordered out of all that territory eventually, and with Turkey still seething over US support for the Kurds, they’re probably not going to let them keep their troops deployed in the territory.
Where this ends up is anyone’s guess, as Turkey seems to be betting the US will withdraw rather than risk a clash with another NATO member, and the US seems to be struggling to figure out what to do next. Either way, the US just keeping its troops stationed there and waiting for a chance to go after Iran and/or Assad is no longer an option, and if they want to stay in Syria at all the US is likely going to have to figure out something Turkey will accept, at the expense of the Kurdish alliance.
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