Deterring Iran won’t be enough; And a bit more.
The U.S. is letting Turkey invade Syria, and — according to the president — it’s giving all ISIS fighters captured in the last two years over to Ankara. That’s one quick read of the White House’s message announced last Sunday evening and just hours after the two country’s leaders spoke by phone. A longer read would emphasize, among other seemingly very consequential matters, how “The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation,” and, in fact, “will no longer be in the immediate area.”
That would seem to involve just “100 to 150 United States military personnel,” the New York Times reports this morning, citing administration officials who said that U.S. troops (emphasis added) “would not be completely withdrawn from Syria.”
President Trump went on an unusual five-tweet thread on the matter this morning — kicking things off with an apparent untruth about the original duration of the U.S. military in Syria, writing it was only supposed to last “for 30 days, [but] that was many years ago.” (Not that it’s rife with consequence, but the president got that particular fact wrong, CNN’s Daniel Dale tweeted immediately afterward in a fact-check. Wrote Dale: “There was never a specific time period attached [to that Syria deployment for the U.S. military].” What’s more, Dale added, “Trump previously said eight times that US troops were supposed to be there for ‘four months.'”)
Nextgov’s Modernization Roadmap event is coming up on October 8th, and I wanted to personally reach out about you attending!
At this half-day summit, Nextgov will explore different elements of IT modernization with current and former agency CXOs, oversight leaders and policy experts, including:
Alan Thomas, Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Veronica Villalobos, Principal Deputy Associate Director, Employee Services, U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Aaron Boyd, Senior Editor, Technology and Events, Nextgov
These experts will speak on funding IT modernization, preparing the workforce for IT modernization, + what is necessary to truly modernize government. Learn more and register now on our event site.
Trump also took a jab at European nations — a follow-up to the initial WH statement, which fingered “France, Germany, and other European nations” for not taking ISIS foreign fighters back for trials. (It’s also a call back to an August 21 threat “to release them into the countries from which they came. Which is Germany and France and other places.”) The Sunday statement said, this all now means that the “United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer.” And as a result, “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.”
For what it’s worth, the latest figures on how many ISIS fighters that might be ranges somewhere around 2,000. However, there are another 68,000 associated family members at the al-Hol refugee camp in northwest Syria. And there are only about 400 people guarding them, the Washington Institute’s Aaron Zelin noted this morning. It’s not yet clear what will happen there. Here’s a wider look at ISIS detention facilities across Syria, via the Institute for the Study of War.
Added Trump in his tweet-explanation this morning: “the U.S. is always the ‘sucker,’ on NATO, on Trade, on everything.”
Oh, and about the Kurds? That’s to say the Kurdish-dominant Syrian Democratic Forces, with whom the U.S. military has been partnered to defeat ISIS in Syria… here’s POTUS45’s POV on that relationship: “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.”
And the final takeaway, as far as Trump is concerned this morning: “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… We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”
The SDF were quite appalled by the news, writing on Twitter shortly after the WH statement was released that Turkey’s invasion plans represent a “mechanism of death” meant to”displace our people & change the stable & secure region into a zone of conflict and permanent war.” (Note: The SDF tweeted this statement in Arabic before the WH statement came out, sharp-eyed Joanne Stocker of Defense Post pointed out last night.)
The Pentagon view? They’re scrambling there. Or, as Fox News’s Lucas Tomlinson tweeted today: “Pentagon ‘completely blindsided’ by White House order to pull U.S. forces back from northern Syria green-lighting Turkish invasion: U.S. officials.” Three days ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he and Turkey were on the same page about the previous security arrangement for patrolling northern Syria’s border with Turkey. However, Politico’s Wesley Morgan noticed, Esper and his Turkish counterpart’s respective bosses “clearly are on a different” page when it comes to Syria.
Worth noting: Trump will meet with his top military leaders this evening to discuss Sunday evening’s announcement, CBS News’s Mark Knoller reports.
“Disaster in the making,” is how Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-.S.C., described the news from the White House in his own tweet this morning. Graham’s four reasons why this is no bueno, as listed in a follow-up tweet:
Ensures ISIS comeback.
Forces Kurds to align with Assad and Iran.
Destroys Turkey’s relationship with U.S. Congress.
Will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.