The infinitely complicated matrix of actors battling ISIL is only getting more frustrating for the U.S., and more deadly for people on the ground. Over the past few weeks Turkey and the Syrian Kurds as well as Iran and Russia have - for their own realpolitik reasons - made the U.S. plan to destroy ISIL even more muddled. The diametrically opposed interests of U.S.-backed allies required some high level efforts to smooth over this week (some didn't go over well) and to keep the focus on liberating more territory form ISIL. The U.S. is also busy trying to whip the non U.S.-backed members of the anti-ISIL coalition into some semblance of a coordinated effort - and that starts with Russia. But even as analysts are renewing their speculation about some sort of U.S.-Russian agreement on how to stay out of each other’s way, the U.S. and Russia can't even find a way to celebrate the campaign’s successes. After a significant military success this week, the U.S. and Russia are only working together insomuch as spokesmen are squabbling over who should get the credit for the airstrike that took out a senior ISIL figure near Aleppo. There's a long way to go towards cooperation in the skies, but any long term political settlement is going to also require major cooperation on the ground. And while the battle to defeat ISIL is important for pretty much the entire world, bringing an end to the brutal war in Syria can’t be left out of any conversations about the campaign against ISIL.

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