The Manbij Attack Exposes the Vulnerabilities of US Policy in Syria

The Manbij attack exposes the crisis of US policy in Syria overall. The pillars of the Trump Administration’s policy in the country have been to defeat IS, prevent a Turkish-Kurdish confrontation, deny Iran a foothold in Syria, and veto a Russian-led political process that contradicts US interests. All these objectives are currently at risk. Moving forward, the White House will be tempted to retaliate against the Islamic State as a show of force, which will deepen US involvement in the Syrian conflict in the short term. It is difficult, however, to see how a US withdrawal could be imminent or accomplished without a deal with Turkey; this seems unlikely in the foreseeable future as both sides have irreconcilable interests in northern Syria. While the American decision to withdraw has whet Turkish and Russian appetite to fill the vacuum the US would leave behind, the recent IS attack in Manbij might tip the balance and persuade Trump to stay a bit longer in Syria. Click here to read my latest policy analysis.