Withdrawing Trump’s troops
By Gatien Delaunay
On Sunday, Oct. 6, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced in a statement Washington’s intention to withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from Syria.
Officials made the decision after Turkey started to invade northern Syria and launched offensives against the Kurdish populations living in this area. In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump indicated his intention not to oppose Turkey’s actions.
“…..The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years. Turkey considers the PKK the worst terrorists of all. Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them! We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!” tweeted President Trump.
In total, around 1000 soldiers are expected to be withdrawn. The location where U.S. troops will be removed is still unknown, as the Turkish army already started its military incursions. The U.S. troops are trapped between the Turkish army that is moving south and the Kurds that are moving north. Washington emphasized this delicate situation to justify its decision.
If nothing is done to evacuate them, the U.S. troops will continue to be “caught between opposing advancing armies,” as said by Defense Secretary Esper. Although no U.S. force have yet been injured, the American troops appear to be under increasing threat and around two dozen U.S. troops had to evacuate the Syrian city of Ain Eissa. The Turkish army also cut the U.S. supply lines throughout bombardments.
The Kurds are a stateless people, spread over Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi territories. It is estimated that between 2 and 3.6 million Kurds live in Syria, mainly in the northern region of the country. For decades, the Kurds have been calling for the formation of an independent Kurdish state. This is the major source of conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, as this new territory would include part of what is currently Turkey. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a Kurdish nationalist armed political organization — is considered to be one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations by the Turkish authorities. Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, considers the Kurds in Syria to be affiliated with this terrorist organization and fears that the Kurds would be able to galvanize separatist wills in the southern part of Turkey. The Turkish government launched preventive attacks in return, sending troops into northern Syria.
The Trump administration’s decision has been strongly criticized by both the Republican and the Democratic members of Congress, for two reasons. The first being that the Kurds are considered one of the closest U.S. allies. They fought against the Islamic State alongside the U.S. troops and proved to be redoubtable fighters who have greatly contributed to the fight against ISIS. Trump’s decision is, therefore, seen by some people as a sort of treason against the Kurds. The second reason for these criticisms is that the Kurds hold thousands of ISIS prisoners, and the recent Turkish attacks have already allowed a number of these prisoners to escape.
Many observers fear that the Islamic State will take advantage of this situation and regain power and influence. Senator Lindsey Graham, whom heavily supports Trump, strongly criticized him on his decision to remove U.S. troops from northern Syria.
“This impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I’m an ISIS fighter I’ve got a second lease on life. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated you will soon see.” Sen. Graham said in an interview for Fox News.
Although it seems Trump and his administration do not approve of Turkey’s actions, it is actually quite the opposite. He recently announced that he was working with many members of Congress to impose powerful economic sanctions on Turkey.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…” President Trump tweeted.
The Trump administration’s position is now clear, but Turkey is not concerned, as they continue to move troops southward.
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Cole, Devan. “Graham Rips into Trump for Removing Troops from Syria.” CNN. Accessed October 13, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/07/politics/lindsey-graham-donald-trump-syria-troops/index.html.
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