U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Turkey soon will mount a major incursion into northern Syria and trigger a clash with Kurdish fighters, an action that would likely prompt the Trump administration to remove all American forces from Syria to avoid the conflict.
Because a U.S. pullout would essentially end the fight against Islamic State there, it could set back ongoing efforts to undercut the group, which lost its so-called caliphate but remains what many U.S. officials consider a viable terrorist network that still can stage attacks against the U.S. and its allies and interests.
Turkey wants to resettle up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey in Syrian border towns that would be cleared of Kurdish forces known as the YPG, a group Turkey considers to be a terrorist affiliate of the Turkey-based PKK.
But while Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, views the Kurdish military organization as a terrorist group, U.S. officials say Kurdish fighters have spearheaded the fight to defeat Islamic State across Syria.
Washington has attempted to quell Turkish concerns by conducting joint military patrols in two Syrian cities and holding talks on Turkey’s request for a 300-mile safe zone along the border between the two countries.
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