Yesterday, I noted that as a result of President Trump’s decision to pull back U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, raids against ISIS in other parts of Syria have been curtailed. Today comes word of other adverse consequences.
One is Turkish atrocities and, perhaps, war crimes. Allahpundit at Hot Air has the relevant links for those with the stomach to check them out.
In the age of “America First,” we’re no longer supposed to worry about this sort of thing, so let’s turn to other consequences that are not so easily brushed aside.
Fox News reports that, as Turkish forces approached and Turkish planes bombed the area, hundreds of people affiliated with ISIS escaped a camp in northeastern Syria where they were being held. The Kurds had warned that they might not be able to maintain detention facilities holding thousands of militants while they fight against invading Turks.
This stands to reason. It is an entirely predictable consequence of Trump’s decision to pull back.
But at least American forces are safe, right? Not really.
Newsweek reported on Friday that Turkish artillery shells had landed suspiciously close to a group of U.S. troops stationed near the town of Kobane. Why suspicious? Because, as a U.S. “ally,” Turkey had been told exactly where American troops are based in northern Syria. We want to avoid friendly-fire incidents so we give them our positions and tell them to steer clear.
So how’d a bunch of Turkish shells end up “bracketing” the American contingent in Kobane?
One Army officer who has deployed to northeastern Syria and has knowledge of the situation said that multiple rounds of 155 mm fire were launched from Turkey’s side of the border and that they had a “bracketing effect” in which shells landed on both sides of the U.S. outpost.
“That’s an area weapon,” the officer said, noting its explosive effects. “That’s not something we ever would have done to a partner force.”
The officer said Turkey knew there were Americans on the hill and that it had to be deliberate. The service members vacated the outpost after the incident but returned Saturday, according to a U.S. official and images circulating on social media.
“We had been there for months, and it is the most clearly defined position in that entire area,” the officer said.
We don’t know for sure that the Turks deliberately fired on positions they knew the U.S. held, but it looks that way.
Why might the Turks do such a thing? Because they can, because it paves the way for a further pullback of our troops, and because it enhances their self-image.
To Trump and many of his supporters, the pullback is a smart strategic move that serves America’s interests. But to Turkey, it’s a case of Trump yielding to the will of Erdogan.
The Trumpian view can be debated. The Turkish view seems indisputable.
We know that the pullback is a withdrawal, not a retreat. Our forces weren’t defeated, they withdrew voluntarily.
But many Turks would like to view the pullback as a retreat in the face of their Muslim war machine. Firing on U.S. troops and seeing them withdraw in the face of fire — whether the fire is the result of orders from well up the chain of command or of the initiative of forces on the ground — would feed that narrative.
The Turks simply don’t fear the U.S. Nor should they, given Trump’s repeatedly announced determination to stop fighting in the region.
Trump has boasted about his ability to destroy Turkey’s economy. If he has that ability, and the prospect frightens the Turks, he should have threatened to use it if Turkey invaded Syria.
In reality, though, Turkey is determined to crush the Kurds of northern Syria and to win a glorious military victory. The Turks have too much national pride to be deterred by economic threats.
Trump should understand this. For one thing, he too is a nationalist. For another, his economic promises and threats haven’t meaningfully influenced North Korea or Iran.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has expanded the scope of its troop withdrawal in northern Syria. I guess this makes sense.
We’ve already abandoned the Kurds. If we’re indifferent to their fate, okay with Turkish atrocities, fine with the loss of our reputation as a reliable ally, unconcerned about large scale ISIS jailbreaks, and no longer trying to keep ISIS at bay, why leave our forces exposed to shelling from our “friend” and NATO ally Turkey? They are no longer doing anything worthwhile.