In a mercurial foreign policy change the United States on Sunday pulled out its troops from northern Syria abandoning its long time allies Kurds and allowing Turkish troops to carry on their operation into the war-torn country.
US troops in northern Syria will no longer be near the border with Turkey, nor will they support Ankara’s “long-planned operation” into the country, the White House said in its statement. “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 White House said, using another acronym for the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
The statement, which followed US President Donald Trump’s phone call with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, also criticized “France, Germany, and other European nations” for not repatriating their citizens detained in northern Syria who had joined the ranks of ISIS fighters.
“Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial ‘Caliphate’ by the United States,” the statement said.
“The US government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured Isis fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused,” White House statement said “The US will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer. Turkey will now be responsible for all Isis fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial “caliphate” by the United States.”
Earlier on Sunday, Erdogan and Trump agreed during a phone call to meet in Washington next month to discuss creating a “safe zone” in northern Syria, the Turkish presidency said. Erdogan also expressed his “frustration over the US military and security bureaucracy’s failure” to implement an August deal establishing a buffer zone on the Turkish border.
The day before, the Turkish leader warned that Ankara could launch a cross-border offensive “as soon as today, tomorrow.”
Washington had previously sought to stop any Turkish operation against a US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) viewed by Ankara as a “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish militants in Turkey. The US worked closely with the SDF to recapture swathes of territory form the IS jihadists. Abandoning the SDF might push away the Kurds to look for new alliances, not favourable for the Turks and US.