Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was an “impulsive” decision by Turkish President Erdogan to invade northern Syria and it will further destabilize the region and put America’s Syrian Kurdish partners “in harm’s way”. (Oct. 11)
Turkey pressed on with its incursions into northeastern Syria on Tuesday as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained quiet on the Trump administration’s demands for an immediate ceasefire as well as economic sanctions and threats to punish Turkish officials.
President Donald Trump’s request to Erdogan to halt the advance was revealed by Vice President Mike Pence, who said he would travel to the Middle East.
Trump made the demand in a Monday phone call with Erdogan.
About 1,000 U.S. troops Trump ordered to leave Syria will remain in the Middle East to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group, Trump said late Monday as he announced economic sanctions on Turkey.
In a written statement, Trump said the troops will “redeploy and remain in the region.”
While he said the troops will leave Syria entirely, a small number will remain at a base in southern Syria to “monitor the situation” and prevent a “repeat of 2014,” when Islamic State fighters took control of large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Erdogan has not responded to the move.
The sanctions Trump is putting on Turkey are aimed at pressuring Turkey’s leader to halt a military offensive in Syria against Kurdish forces it views as a terrorist threat. The sanctions put a freeze on trade negotiations and raise steel tariffs on Turkey. Trump said Monday that he will also soon sign an executive order permitting sanctions to be imposed on current and former Turkish officials.
What we know: Turkey’s offensive in Syria
Trump did not specify whether an invitation he made for Erdogan to visit the White House next month would be rescinded. Erdogan had already accepted the invitation.
The United Nations says that at least 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the Turkish offensive began on Oct. 9. Northeast Syria was already facing a humanitarian crisis before the Turkish invasion, with several million women, children and men in the region in need of assistance and tens of thousands of vulnerable people who fled the battlefields of the Islamic State group living in makeshift camps.
Some of these camps also acted as detention centers for captured Islamic State militants. U.S. troops had been assisting Syrian Kurds to fight the Islamic State group since 2014. When Trump ordered troops to withdraw from northern Syria, it cleared the way for Turkey’s invasion. Ankara considers these Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their links to outlawed Kurdish groups in Turkey.
Trump’s move has been characterized at home and abroad as a betrayal of an ally and Syria’s Kurds say that because of the U.S. withdrawal they have been forced to strike a deal with the government forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad to fend off the Turkish invasion and prevent a massacre of Syrian Kurds.
It is a move that represents a potentially significant shift in Syria’s eight-year-old civil war, not least because Assad’s regime is allied with Russian military forces who have waged a deadly bombing campaign in Syria on its behalf.
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