Upon taking office, the Trump administration stepped up the military campaign against ISIS, primarily by increasing support to local forces in Syria and Iraq. U.S. and coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets have led to high numbers of civilian casualties, with an estimated 6,000-9,000 deaths in 2017 alone.
Although the military campaign against ISIS is wrapping up, the U.S. military presence in Syria may not end quickly. The official number of U.S. troops in Syria is 2,000, but may be as high as 5,000. This continued presence seems aimed largely at preventing Iran from expanding its influence.
Congress has yet to act on a new “authorization for the use of military force” (AUMF), so U.S. military actions are still being carried out under the 2001 AUMF, passed long before ISIS was formed. Funding for humanitarian assistance will likely be down slightly from the previous year, although not as steep of a cut as the president requested.
In 2018, some in Congress will continue to push for a vote on a new, narrower AUMF, and it is possible that additional restrictions will be placed on U.S. assistance to the region. But if Syria is to finally experience peace, it will be vital that the U.S. prioritize a diplomatic solution to the conflict. –Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach