Late on Sunday night, the Trump administration made a surprise announcement that it would pull back its remaining forces in Northern Syria and allow Turkish troops to commence a long-planned “operation” in the region. This operation is almost certainly going to look more like an invasion, as critics of Trump’s foreign policy say it gives Turkey carte blanche to wage war on its political enemies, namely the Syrian and Turkish ethnic Kurds who have controlled the region with U.S. support for years.
The Kurds, particularly the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the leftist YPG, have taken on the brunt of both frontline fighting against ISIS and administration of the aftermath in recent years; they’re our closest allies in the region and have been for years. They’re also the ones guarding the prisons and camps where the remnants of ISIS are now held, not the United States, as Trump’s statement claimed. The SDF and other forces, particularly the YPG, are enemies of the Turkish state, which has sought to attack them for years. Per the Washington Post’s reporting, nobody really knows what’s going to happen next:
U.S. officials depicted the impending offensive, and the U.S. troop withdrawal, as a dramatic turn after their prolonged attempt to hammer out an arrangement that would allay the Turks’ concerns about Syrian Kurdish forces close to their border, while also averting a battle they fear will be bloody for Kurdish fighters whom the Pentagon sees as stalwart allies.
Military officials point out that Kurdish assistance is still required to avoid a return of the Islamic State in Syria and to guard facilities where Islamic State militants and their families are being held.
A senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an evolving situation, said the U.S. government “has no idea” what the Turkish operation would look like, whether it would be a small, symbolic incursion or a major offensive intended to push as far as 25 miles into Syria.
In a series of tweets on Monday morning, Trump claimed the U.S. would no longer be taking charge of the captured remnants of ISIS and alleging that many of the fighters were from Europe (both of these points are false).
Like Trump’s nebulous decision to pull out troops then keep troops in Northern Syria in December, this decision seems to have come down with literally no planning or advance warning for the people it will affect.
The chief fear is that a Turkish invasion will be disastrous not only for the Kurds but for the entire region. Brett McGurk, the former envoy to the region who resigned last time Trump sold out the U.S.’s Kurdish allies, did not mince words about the move.
Trump’s decision is a rare instance in which his loyal base in Congress and Fox News are not with him. Here’s Sen. Lindsey Graham toothlessly criticizing the decision on Fox & Friends this morning:
Graham and Brian Kilmeade, of course, do not have reliable judgement as to whether or not something is a good idea. But this appears to be the rare case in which one of Trump’s moves is so callous and so poorly planned that even the morons and sycophants want him to rethink it. As always, however, they won’t be the ones to pay the price, and after making concerned noises for a news cycle or two, it’ll be back to business as usual, for everyone but the hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Syria whose lives have been thrown back into chaos.