BREAKING NEWS : Former neighbor charged with murder of Wilma Ball Full Story

Deadly battle with Syrian regime forces complicates Trump's Syria strategy

A large-scale attack by over 500 Syrian troops aligned with Bashar al-Assad on a base used by US troops and local US ...

Posted: Feb 9, 2018 6:09 AM
Updated: Feb 9, 2018 6:09 AM

A large-scale attack by over 500 Syrian troops aligned with Bashar al-Assad on a base used by US troops and local US allies underscored the challenges faced by the Trump administration as it seeks to implement its long-term strategy for Syria, with both the Russian-backed regime and NATO ally Turkey recently conducting or threating attacks against America's primary ally in Syria.

After being shelled by pro-regime tanks, rockets and artillery, US troops were able to counterattack, with US artillery and aircraft killing some 100 pro-regime fighters and forcing them to retreat across the Euphrates River, two US military officials told CNN Wednesday.

However, the attack, which US officials assess to be aimed at capturing lucrative Syrian oil fields that US-backed forces captured from ISIS, underscores the diverse array of challenges the Trump administration faces as it seeks to ensure the long-term defeat of ISIS while simultaneously containing Iran's influence in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the administration's goals in Syria during a speech at the Hoover Institution in California last month, saying the US wants to defeat ISIS and al Qaeda, help resolve the Syrian civil war, contain Iran's influence in Syria, help Syrian refugees return home and ensure that Syria is free of weapons of mass destruction.

Tillerson made clear that the US thinks the UN-led process aimed at ending the Syrian civil war will remove Assad from power.

"The United States believes that free and transparent elections, to include the participation of the Syrian diaspora who have been displaced -- all those who were forced to flee the conflict -- will result in the permanent departure of Assad and his family from power," Tillerson said.

But while ISIS has lost over 98% of its territory in Syria many of the other objectives outlined by Tillerson are still fraught with difficulty.

Difficult goals

In order to achieve its goals in Syria, the US has become reliant on its main ally in the fight against ISIS, the 50,000 strong Syrian Democratic Forces, a mix of Kurdish and Arab fighters who helped fight off Wednesday's attack by pro-regime forces.

The local US allies have proven to be an effective fighting force against ISIS and have also helped check Assad and Iran's presence in eastern Syria, with Russia and the US negotiating an agreed-upon "de-confliction" line to separate Russian-backed regime troops and US-backed forces.

US military officials have told CNN that the US has sent Special Operations Forces to partner with US-backed Syrian forces along the Euphrates River and Assad's regime has called the Syrian Democratic Forces traitors and has vowed to eject US troops from the country.

The Syrian Democratic Forces have managed to capture much of Syria's oil and gas infrastructure after ejecting ISIS from those areas. US officials believe that the regime, strapped for cash after a nearly eight-year-long civil war, hopes to recapture the oil fields and simultaneously deny the Syrian Democratic Forces a source of revenue and legitimacy.

The US-led coalition said in a statement that they assessed that Wednesday's attack by pro-regime forces was aimed at recapturing some of these oil fields.

To complicate matters, two US defense officials told CNN that the US military now assesses that Russian contractors, believed to be funded by the Russian government, participated in Wednesday's assault.

Asked about the attack, Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said that the US was "not looking for a conflict with the regime" but added that US forces "have the inherent right to defend ourselves."

Assad's regime has also ramped up its attacks against opposition forces, with US officials accusing his forces of using chemical weapons like chlorine in recent weeks.

The US has said it seeks to continue working with the Syrian Democratic Forces and other local groups to ensure that ISIS cannot return and to make sure that areas recaptured from the terror group are stabilized, as the US hopes the UN can broker a peaceful end to the civil war and bring about a transition away from Assad.

"We're just making certain that it's turned over responsibly to the locals and that the locals have a seat at the table in Geneva," Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters last month, referring to the UN-led process that is seeking a peaceful resolution to the Syrian civil war. Mattis has previously said that US forces would help support US diplomats working to resolve the conflict.

Tensions with Turkey

However, America's NATO ally Turkey says those same Kurdish groups are linked to Kurdish separatists who have fought a decade-long insurgency against the Turkish government.

Shortly after Tillerson's speech and an announcement by the US military that it intended to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces to establish a border security force in order to secure areas liberated from ISIS, Turkey launched a major military operation targeting Kurdish groups in Afrin, Syria.

While the US does not support groups in Afrin, they are linked to American allies elsewhere in Syria. Additionally, Turkey has threatened to launch a military operation against Manbij, Syria, a place where US troops do work with local Kurdish and Arab fighters. Turkey has demanded that US troops withdraw from that area.

The commander of the US-led coalition, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, told reporters during a visit to Manbij Wednesday that the US had no plans to withdraw and would continue working with local forces that are opposed by Turkey.

Facing attacks by pro-regime forces and threats by a NATO ally, the approximately 2,000 US troops in Syria could find it increasingly difficult to help bring about the long list of objectives outlined by Tillerson last month without additional clashes that could widen the conflict.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 775686

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1066871814
Lake572681031
Allen43500701
Hamilton37653427
St. Joseph37508568
Elkhart29882471
Tippecanoe23732232
Vanderburgh23634405
Porter19690327
Johnson19020394
Hendricks18271323
Clark13730199
Madison13719348
Vigo12949256
Monroe12691180
LaPorte12645225
Delaware11218198
Howard10832237
Kosciusko9851124
Hancock8855150
Bartholomew8343157
Warrick8216157
Floyd8128183
Grant7457181
Boone7289105
Wayne7273201
Morgan6988143
Marshall6376117
Dubois6327118
Cass6130112
Noble607391
Dearborn605878
Henry6001111
Jackson520977
Shelby514898
Lawrence5020128
Gibson471697
Montgomery464792
Clinton462755
DeKalb461485
Harrison459277
Huntington429082
Whitley421045
Steuben414561
Miami411573
Jasper403957
Knox397291
Putnam388762
Wabash373884
Adams358956
Ripley354571
Jefferson351487
White341854
Daviess3110100
Wells305981
Greene298485
Decatur294393
Posey288235
Fayette287764
Scott285458
LaGrange278873
Clay277649
Washington257638
Randolph248583
Jennings243349
Spencer240531
Fountain239050
Starke231559
Owen226759
Sullivan224143
Fulton210446
Jay204132
Carroll200623
Orange194456
Perry193139
Vermillion183444
Rush179127
Tipton174348
Franklin173935
Parke157816
Pike144034
Blackford138732
Pulaski124748
Newton124137
Benton111615
Brown106743
Crawford106716
Martin92715
Warren88715
Switzerland8568
Union73910
Ohio58711
Unassigned0429

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1132798

Reported Deaths: 20530
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1312911496
Cuyahoga1180592268
Hamilton830231263
Montgomery541901064
Summit491891018
Lucas43982835
Butler40324615
Stark34056941
Lorain26232511
Warren25125312
Mahoning22881614
Lake21602397
Clermont20592261
Delaware19295138
Licking16977227
Fairfield16959207
Trumbull16940493
Medina16019278
Greene15721254
Clark14439309
Portage13548219
Wood13411201
Allen12124245
Richland11870214
Miami11140229
Wayne9344228
Columbiana9282236
Muskingum9207137
Pickaway8796123
Marion8774140
Tuscarawas8756257
Erie8220166
Ashtabula7318180
Hancock7080135
Ross7070165
Geauga7032153
Scioto6887108
Belmont6261179
Lawrence6033106
Union595149
Jefferson5787162
Huron5678122
Sandusky5536130
Darke5476131
Seneca5391128
Washington5391111
Athens528660
Auglaize510587
Mercer492885
Shelby487798
Knox4678112
Ashland450198
Madison450066
Defiance444599
Fulton443275
Putnam4366104
Crawford4152112
Brown414163
Preble3988107
Logan396379
Clinton395667
Ottawa378281
Highland370768
Williams361878
Champaign351760
Guernsey334054
Jackson324954
Perry300550
Morrow298544
Fayette291350
Hardin280465
Henry279067
Coshocton275161
Holmes2735102
Van Wert254465
Gallia254150
Adams253658
Pike247137
Wyandot236557
Hocking224163
Carroll203349
Paulding181542
Meigs153940
Monroe139446
Noble138739
Harrison115738
Morgan112024
Vinton88217
Unassigned04
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 62°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 61°
Decatur
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 62°
Van Wert
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 59°
The heat and humidity builds into the region as we head into the weekend.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events