Turkish tanks park near the Syrian border. A crisis between the U.S. and Turkey has been triggered by the latter’s new military offensive in Syria. AFP / OZAN KOSE
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WASHINGTON: For the last few years, the United States could neatly sum its objective in Syria in a single, uncontroversial bullet point: fighting Daesh (ISIS).A crisis between the U.S. and Turkey, triggered by the latter's new military offensive in Syria, has laid bare how a dizzying array of alliances in Syria is growing even more convoluted in the absence of Daesh as a major force. Although Turkey has long been incensed by U.S. military support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, calling them terrorists, the U.S. could make a compelling case while the Kurds spearheaded the anti-Daesh fight.Daesh's retreat also has forced the U.S. to stretch thinner its legal rationale for operating in Syria.Senior Trump administration officials said they need no additional authorization to be in Syria because Daesh remains a serious and persistent threat, requiring a continued U.S. presence to ensure it doesn't regroup and again imperil Syria's future. Such arguments create another problem, especially for a president often eager to claim successes: Trump cannot declare victory of any sort against Daesh in Syria without empowering those who argue Daesh's defeat means the U.S. has no business staying in Syria. The U.S. concurs that PKK fighters are terrorists, but insists that its Kurdish partners in Syria are unconnected to that group.
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