A camp for people displaced from fighting in Raqqa, Syria, July 2017.
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

On July 4, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), broke into the Old City of Raqqa, the jihadist pseudo-state’s de facto Syrian capital. Although fighting in Raqqa will continue to be a bloody grind, when it is over, the battle will be the capstone of what is now a successful, years-long collaboration between the U.S.-led coalition and the SDF.

But the battle against ISIS will not end with the liberation of Raqqa, and neither will the United States’ commitments in Syria. Washington’s approach to fighting ISIS in Syria—and in particular the local Kurdish partner it has chosen—has granted a victory that can last only as long as the United States stays. If one looks beyond Raqqa and the immediate campaign against ISIS, the bigger strategic picture is alarming: the United

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  • SAM HELLER is a Beirut-based writer and analyst and Fellow at The Century Foundation. He has written extensively on the Syrian war. Follow him on Twitter at @AbuJamajem.
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