— Already Happened (@M3t4_tr0n) March 12, 2017
BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey achieved a milestone in its goals in Syria: It established a foothold in the heart of the country’s north after driving Islamic State militants away from its borders and seizing al-Bab, one of the extremist group’s major strongholds and a major supply route.
But Turkey’s determination to also push back the Kurds is alienating the other big players in Syria — Russia and the United States — and threatens to undermine the fight against IS in the imminent assault on Raqqa.
Ankara’s threats to attack the nearby town of Manbij, held by US-backed Kurdish-led forces, prompted Washington to deploy new troops in the area to prevent Turkish advances. Turkey’s Syrian allies have been fighting the Kurds around the town, reportedly with Turkish cover, raising the possibility of friction with the Americans.
At the same time, Turkish forces shelling Kurds hit Syrian government forces, whose patron Moscow reportedly has advisers in the area.
As a result, Ankara has effectively unified Russia and the US in the goal of limiting Turkish expansion in the north. Syria experts say Ankara has lost influence to realize its aim of pushing the Kurdish forces back to the east of Manbij across the Euphrates. Moreover, Washington is pushing ahead with partnering with the Kurdish-led forces in the planned attack on Raqqa, despite Turkish opposition.
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