Despite its fearsome codename, Operation Wrath of Euphrates, the campaign by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to capture Raqqa from ISIS has progressed in fits and starts since its announcement on November 6th of last year. However, that changed this month, with the operation appearing to have accelerated and SDF forces pushing to within just 50 kilometers of the ISIS capital.
New expressions of U.S. support have bolstered this advance. In January, the Pentagon made its first delivery of armored personnel carriers to SDF forces. Subsequently, roughly 200 U.S. Marines and 200 Army Rangers have deployed to SDF territory this week; and new reports suggest that Trump may raise the cap on U.S. personnel in Syria, deploying as many as 1,000 troops to support and advise the SDF. However, these signals that the Trump administration is ramping up support for the SDF come at a dangerous cost to U.S. relations with Turkey, which views the Kurdish-dominated SDF as an offshoot of its homegrown Kurdish insurgency, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).