As the United States faces important decisions regarding its future role in Syria’s conflict, a new Atlantic Council report by Dr. Steven Heydemann, “Rethinking Stabilization in Eastern Syria: Toward a Human Security Framework,” provides important context, analysis, and strategic policy recommendations.

Only two areas in Syria remain outside of the control of the Assad regime, and the United States maintains a military presence in both. In this report, the author contends that if the United States has an interest in shaping the closing trajectory of the conflict in Syria, it has a narrow window in which to do so. In eastern Syria, the United States has an opportunity to use stabilization to advance both short- and long-term interests. It can adopt a stabilization strategy that will improve the well-being of communities in eastern Syria, develop effective, legitimate local authorities, and assist local communities in preparing for an uncertain political future.

By shifting its efforts to focus on the role of local governance in strengthening human security, the United States will bring its field-based operations in line with the recently established stabilization doctrine of the US government. It will also increase the likelihood that the presence of US forces in Syria will both temper the possible resurgence of violent extremist groups and leave communities better positioned to manage their political futures once the United States withdraws.

This report is part of the Rafik Hariri Center’s Rebuilding Syria project, directed by Senior Fellow Faysal Itani and Assistant Director Emily Burchfield that aims to inform and advance transatlantic policy to foster a transition toward legitimate public order in Syria through economic reconstruction. As part of this project, the Hariri Center has pooled expertise from multiple specialists to cover the many challenges of rebuilding Syria, including in development, political economy, civil society, law, and employment.