Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters in Azaz, Syria, January 2018.
Osman Orsal / Reuters

Last week, Turkey launched an offensive to take control of Afrin, a small and isolated enclave in northwestern Syria controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey for just over three decades. The Turkish offensive has sparked conversation about U.S. strategy in Syria, and in particular whether Washington can balance its relationships with Turkey—a NATO ally—and the Syrian Kurds, who have been the United States’ most reliable partners in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

This debate, however, is too narrow and masks much broader and as yet unanswered questions about the United States’ presence in Syria. Now that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s victory over the remaining elements of the antiregime opposition looks inevitable, how will Washington manage that victory? And, more important, how will the

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  • AARON STEIN is Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
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