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As IS shrinks, end game for US in Syria gets murky

February 9, 2018

This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows civil defense workers carrying a wounded man after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Syrian rescue workers and activists say the death toll from ongoing government strikes on the opposition-held region near the capital Damascus has risen to at least 35. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The closer the U.S. gets to its original goal in Syria of defeating the Islamic State group, the murkier its end game. The battlefield is shifting as demonstrated by a deadly barrage of American air and artillery strikes on a shadowy attacker.

The Pentagon insists it is keeping its focus on defeating IS, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday U.S.-backed fighters in eastern Syria faced a “perplexing” overnight assault by about 300 pro-Syrian government fighters whose nationalities, motives and makeup he could not identify.

A number of U.S. military advisers were present alongside local allied forces, and the Americans led a punishing response that other officials said killed about 100 of the assailants.

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