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Syrian Kurds around a U.S. armored vehicle during a demonstration against Turkish threats, Oct. 6. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, announced by President Trump on Sunday evening, gives Turkey a green light to sweep into the region and threatens the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces who helped combat the Islamic State.

Why it matters: The move could open new fronts of conflict and displace hundreds of thousands of civilians across an area already in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. It also risks ceding more territory to the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Background: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to create a “safe zone” that pushes the Syrian Kurdish forces — known as the YPG — up to 20 miles away from the border. Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization affiliated with the PKK, the Kurdish militant and political group Turkey has been fighting since 1984.

What to watch:

  1. A Turkish incursion is likely to spark fighting between the Turks and the Syrian Kurds, who have pledged to “defend northeast Syria at all costs.” This would pull the YPG away from the campaign against the Islamic State — amid an ongoing resurgence by the terrorist group. U.S. officials have indicated that American forces will not intervene in fighting between the Turks and the Syrian Kurds.
  2. Most international relief groups operating in northeast Syria would be forced to pull out, leaving just when humanitarian aid would be most needed to cope with massive civilian displacement.
  3. Syrian Kurds, betrayed by the U.S., could turn to the Assad regime and the Russians for protection against Turkey — an outcome the U.S. has sought to avoid. The net result could be the return of significant parts of northeast Syria to regime control without Damascus having to fire a shot.
  4. The announcement has been quickly met with resistance in Washington, including threats from Congress to sanction Turkey or call for its suspension from NATO if Kurdish forces face attack.

Hardin Lang is vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International.

Go deeper

Updated 55 mins ago - World

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.

Roger Stone won't cooperate with Jan. 6 panel

Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone speaking in front of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone won't cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and will invoke the Fifth Amendment right not to testify, his attorney said Tuesday evening.

Why it matters: The announcement, first reported by ABC News, came hours after former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he wouldn't cooperate with the probe.