The Trump administration has quietly escalated American entrenchment in Syria, BuzzFeed News reports, particularly in the fight to oust the Islamic State from its de facto capital of Raqqa. This entails closer cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and allied Kurdish fighters, as well as the establishment of "a semipermanent diplomatic presence close to the northern Syrian city of Kobane."
Though U.S. military intervention in Syria's kaleidoscopic conflict began under former President Barack Obama, President Trump's tenure has substantially built on that base. Now, "[w]hen the SDF fighters get into trouble or need help to pave the way, they call in U.S. airstrikes and artillery fire," the BuzzFeed report notes. "And when the U.S. forces see an opportunity to strike, they do so, before alerting Syrian fighters on the ground to move in. Acting in part on the recommendations of the outgoing Obama administration, the U.S. has also expanded the flow of weapons and ammunition to the SDF."
Much of the change can be attributed to Trump's preference to delegate strategic decisions to military commanders who operate without his direct oversight as commander in chief. As a result, in "the last six months, we have dramatically accelerated this campaign" in Syria, said U.S. Special Envoy Brett McGurk on Friday.
This escalation will likely transition into significant nation-building commitments when the ISIS threat is eventually eliminated, despite Trump's campaign pledge to end the practice. It also risks conflict with NATO ally Turkey, which opposes the Kurdish militias, as well as further entanglement in Syria's concurrent civil war, in which the U.S. and Russia support opposite sides. Read the full BuzzFeed analysis here.