Incoherent U.S. Policy Will Doom Raqqa Campaign

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Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s assertion that the battle to dislodge the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from Raqqa “starts in the next few weeks,” caught many by surprise. The Syrian rebels Washington supports are struggling to survive, have lost hope that the Americans will ever supply them the weapons they need, and are merely waiting for an administration, which has frustrated them at every turn, to ride into the sunset.

The Syrian Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (PYD) has been the main beneficiary of American aid. American arms and training have helped the PYD wrestle away 20 percent of ISIS’ territory in Syria. But when Turkey, with its more powerful and professional army, entered Syria in August to ostensibly clear ISIS from its border, the PYD lost its favorite son status in Washington. Worse, Turkish tanks soon turned their turrets away from ISIS and towards the Kurds to prevent them from augmenting their gains. This caused the PYD, which along with its Arab allies, known as the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), had been talking of an offensive against Raqqa, to shift course. Today the Kurds are more focused on avoiding Turkish artillery than they are on trying to roll back ISIS.

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