Arrival of U.S. troops intensifies struggle for influence in Syria


US forces have rolled into northern Syria to keep the peace between two allies that have fought each other for a week, further complicating Washington’s battle against Islamic State and underscoring a messy regional struggle for influence across what remains of the ravaged north.

Armoured trucks conspicuously flying large US flags arrived on Tuesday in a cluster of villages west of the town of Manbij, where the Euphrates river has demarcated Kurdish-backed forces to the east, whom Washington supports, and Arab-backed forces directed by Turkey, farther west.
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Despite Turkey and the US being allies in the war against Isis, neither side has settled on the makeup of the proxy force that will eventually retake Raqqa, the extremist group’s last major bastion in Syria. In the meantime, the armies of four nations – Turkey, Russia, Syria and now the US – are staking claims to dictate terms.

Though still in their early days, talks between Turkey and Russia are focusing on the remnants of the Syrian army – potentially alongside the Arab-backed units it supports – being a core part of the ground force. Turkish-backed Arabs and US-backed Kurds have clashed sporadically for the past week, and deep distrust between the two has dogged the Isis fight. The US has so far not wavered from its backing of Syrian Kurds, viewed as an enemy by Turkey, and a headache by Russia.

The US on Wednesday stepped up its deployment of troops to Syria to 900 soldiers and Marines, some of whom will use artillery guns against Raqqa.

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