WASHINGTON -- When Syria's Kurdish fighters, America's longtime battlefield allies against the Islamic State, announced over the weekend that they were switching sides and joining up with Damascus and Moscow, it seemed like a moment of geopolitical whiplash.
But the move had been in the works for more than a year. The Kurds feared U.S. abandonment and opened a back channel to the Syrian government and the Russians in 2018. American, Kurdish and Russian officials tell The Associated Press that those talks ramped up significantly in recent weeks.
The switch in allegiances is a stark illustration of how American foes like Russia and Syria are working steadily to fill the vacuum left by President Donald Trump's retreat in the region .