In this Jan. 5, 2017, photo, Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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Stung by years of failure to stop Syria's bloodshed, the United States is now just a bystander to the civil war as President Barack Obama's tenure ends.Less than two weeks before Donald Trump's presidency begins, the Obama administration no longer is even claiming to play the leading part in the peace mediation that it spearheaded unsuccessfully for years.With no indication about how the incoming Trump administration intends to proceed on Syria, U.S. diplomats are wary of engaging in any new initiatives that would require a sustained American role. As a result, the Obama administration is ambivalent about attending, even in an observer role, the proposed peace meeting. Obama's reticence to plunge the United States into another Mideast war meant the U.S. never had the capability to shape such an outcome.The Obama administration has an undisclosed number of special operations troops, presumably about 200 to 250, in Syria.
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