The United States will no longer defend the Kurdish forces in Syria from attacks by the Turkish, Reuters reports. This a major shift in policy as the Kurds have long been allies, and it appears that the move to withdraw American troops from the area was done solely at President Trump’s discretion.
After a phone call between President Trump and “good pal” President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, the White House released a statement regarding the withdrawal:
“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 is contrary to the recommendations of the State Department and the Pentagon, and it is another of the erratic moves that Trump has made since the impeachment inquiry was launched.
Allowing Turkey to move into Northern Syria is one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East. The Kurds will never trust America again. They will look for new alliances or Independence to protect themselves. Pompeo has failed again.
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) October 7, 2019
The Kurdish forces in Syria have led the campaign to remove Isis from that region, but now Turkish troops will take over custody of any Isis fighters that are captured. Plus, there are concerns that tensions may escalate between Turkish and Kurdish forces now that the buffer provided by the U.S. is removed.
The New York Times explains Turkey has long wanted American support for the Kurdish fighters to cease, as Turkey has branded them terrorist insurgents. However, the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), as the Kurdish group is called, have been an instrumental and reliable U.S. partner for years.
Trump’s decision is seen as a betrayal of an ally, and the SDF worries that the decision will allow Erdogan to destabilize the area.
But Erdogan's threats are aimed to change the security mechanism into a mechanism of death, displace our people & change the stable & secure region into a zone of conflict and permanent war.
— Coordination & Military Ops Center – SDF (@cmoc_sdf) October 7, 2019
When the removal of American troops from Syria was announced last December it was widely condemned, and Trump even lost his defense secretary Jim Mattis over the decision.
Earlier this year, Trump warned of economic devastation if Turkey tried to “hurt the Kurds.” It appears that he has changed his stance and is once again cutting ties with an ally.