By Sean Jackson
On Sunday October 6th, the White House announced that U.S. forces working with Kurdish forces will withdraw from their positions in northern Syria ahead of Turkey moving forward with military operations in the region.
A statement released on Sunday from the White House Press Secretary stated that, “President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey by telephone. Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”
The decision to withdraw troops has caught Pentagon officials off guard, stating that they were “completely blindsided” and “shocked” about the order to pull back hundreds of U.S. troops. The decision paves the way for Turkey to begin a military operation in the area, and some U.S. officials see the withdrawal as a betrayal to the Kurds who the U.S. has been supporting in opposition to ISIS for years.
Senator Lindsey Graham took to Twitter early Monday, tweeting, “I don’t know the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up a phone call with Secretary Pompeo. If press reports are accurate, this is a disaster in the making.”
While the decision is receiving flak, it does not fall out of message with President Trump’s campaign message of ‘America First’, referring to America’s intervention in foreign conflicts as non-congruent with U.S. needs.
President Trump outlines his rationale on Twitter, early Monday morning: “The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight. When I arrived in Washington, ISIS was running rampant in the area. We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate…”
Trump also made reference to the Kurds, stating that the U.S. will only continue to fight if it is to the country’s benefit, “The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for… almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to… figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.’”
Within hours of the announcement, Kurdish forces in Syria reported that U.S. troops began the process of withdrawing from areas surrounding Turkey’s border. The mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, stated that they were committed to preserving stability in the region, and honoring the agreement between the U.S. and Turkey, but also issued a warning.
SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali told CNN, “However, we will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to DEFEND ourselves and our people.”