Late yesterday, the White House announced that U.S. forces in northeastern Syria will stand down. This clears the way for Turkey to attack the Kurdish forces who fought alongside American troops in defeating ISIS (for the moment).
Turkish President Erdogan, no friend of the U.S. and certainly no reliable partner, says that American troops have already started moving out of the area. Approximately 1,000 of them have been stationed there.
Erdogen has threatened for months to attack the Kurds in northeastern Syria. Presumably, he will now do so. We’ll see.
What about ISIS prisoners held by the U.S. in northeastern Syria? The White House says they will be turned over to the Turks. The plan, it says, is to work on a plan to “repatriate” these terrorists. Turkey has no interest in preventing ISIS forces from taking the battlefield again. For all we know, it would like them to take the field against Turkey’s enemy, the Kurds.
Senators Mitt Romney and Chris Murphy issued a strongly worded statement disapproving of President Trump’s decision to abandon our ally. They said:
The President’s decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in Northern Syria in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal that will have grave humanitarian and national security consequences. After enlisting support from the Kurds to help destroy ISIS and assuring Kurdish protection from Turkey, the U.S. has now opened the door to their destruction. This severely undercuts America’s credibility as a reliable partner and creates a power vacuum in the region that benefits ISIS.
With some 15,000 ISIS fighters on the ground, and tens of thousands in prison camps controlled by the Kurds, the security situation remains precarious. A Turkish invasion will further destabilize conditions on the ground and could result in the escape of ISIS detainees and supporters.
Finally, this decision will further exacerbate the already dire humanitarian crisis by creating new waves of refugees in a region where it will be far more difficult for NGOs to operate. This decision is ultimately a victory for Assad, Russia, Iran, and ISIS. The Administration must immediately reconsider its announced decision to withdraw the few remaining U.S. troops who, for the time being, are playing a vital peacekeeping role. Without a political agreement to protect the Kurds and other U.S. allies in Syria, our limited presence there is necessary to protect our security interests and those of the brave fighters who stood with us in the fight against ISIS.
Barring a reversal of this decision, the Administration must come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and explain to the American people how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests. As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Middle East subcommittee, we will be working with Committee leadership to assure that the Administration appears before the Committee as soon as possible.
Such a hearing is warranted. It will be interesting to hear some poor soul try to defend Trump’s decision.