Big Changes And Major Dilemmas Loom In Next Phase Of ISIS War In Syria – TOM BOWMAN ALICE FORDHAM ALISON MEUSE March 23, 2017 5:06 PM ET


U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, regroup on the northern outskirts of Deir Ezzor as they advance to encircle the ISIS bastion of Raqqa on Feb. 21.

Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Marine artillerymen are now in place on Syrian soil, north of the last stronghold of the Islamic State. A force of local Kurdish and Arab fighters is moving south, continuing to isolate the city of Raqqa.

They’re in the opening stages of a major military operation that officials say could last into the fall.

What comes next is expected to have huge implications not only for the fate of ISIS but also for the relationship between Turkey and Russia, as well as the geographic outlines of the future Syrian state.

It will be very complicated.

Sometime next month, following a Turkish referendum that could give more power to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the U.S. is expected to take a controversial step: equipping local Arab and Kurdish forces in Syria with small arms, heavy machine guns and other weapons to begin the final battle for Raqqa.

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