As American troops began pulling out of northeast Syria ahead of a Turkish invasion on Monday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that the region’s Kurds will “now have to figure the situation out” without American help, effectively abandoning his country’s longtime allies in the fight against the Islamic State.
The Kurds say that the Turkish incursion will overturn five years of achievements in the battle against IS and have accused Washington of failing to abide by its commitments to its key allies. The US has around 1,000 troops in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Syria Kurdish forces as a threat to his country, as Ankara has struggled with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey. The White House’s decision to stand aside and allow Turkey to enter Syria is a major shift in policy.
“The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago,” Trump tweeted on Monday.
…figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their “neighborhood.” They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
“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” but were played for a “sucker” by American’s allies, he said.
“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 of 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,” he continued.
“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.’ They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”
In the US, Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.
On Monday, Prominent Republicans including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Kaley and Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted their opposition to the US pullout and warned of its consequences:
The most probable outcome of this impulsive decision is to ensure Iran’s domination of Syria.
The U.S. now has no leverage and Syria will eventually become a nightmare for Israel.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) October 7, 2019
If reports about US retreat in #Syria are accurate, the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 7, 2019
The Syrian Democratic Forces, as the Kurdish-led force is known, said the American pullout began first from areas along the Syria-Turkey border.
“The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey,” the SDF said in a statement. “Turkey now is preparing to invade northern and eastern parts of Syria.”
“The Turkish military operation in northern and eastern Syria will have a huge negative effect on our war against” IS, it added.
Based on our confidence in the #US efforts in the Security Mechanism agreement, we implemented all our commitments to remove military fortifications between Tal Abyad & SereKaniye, withdraw combat forces with heavy weapons, risking a security vacum as a result of the agreement.
— Coordination & Military Ops Center – SDF (@cmoc_sdf) October 7, 2019
The Kurdish-led fighters have been the main US-backed force in Syria in the fight against IS and in March, the group captured the last sliver of land held by the extremists, marking the end of the so-called caliphate that was declared by IS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.
“We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, the Syrian Kurdish force said, adding that it had lost 11,000 fighters in the war against IS in Syria.
A Turkish attack would lead to a resurgence of IS, it said. IS sleeper cells are already plotting to break free some 12,000 jihadis detained by Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria in a “threat to local & international security.”
The Kurdish fighters also control the al-Hol camp, home to more than 70,000 mostly wives and children of IS fighters.