For decades, the United States has maintained a curious relationship with the Kurds. Americans have historically enlisted them to help fight in the Middle East, only to turn on them in the end. Despite a history of betrayal, the Kurds have yet again become an important long ally in the fight against ISIS.
Perhaps the most effective force against ISIS, the Kurdish militias have received backing from the U.S. in the form of air support and advisers on the ground. But inflamed tensions with Turkey.
The U.S. President Donald Trump decision to pull out U.S. forces from northeastern Syria will leave Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria vulnerable to a planned incursion by the Turkish military.
The U.S. leaders from both parties and both houses of Congress joined in the criticism, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump’s fellow Republican.
“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!)” Trump tweeted.
Speaking later at the White House, Trump said he had told President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that Turkey could suffer the “wrath of an extremely decimated economy” if it acted in Syria in a way that was not “humane.”
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to carry out an incursion against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria.
The United States began pulling troops back from the northeast Syrian border on Monday, effectively giving Turkey a green light to move into the area.
Earlier on Monday, Trump said the United States should leave others from European allies to Iranian foes, “to figure the situation out” in the region.
He wrote on Twitter that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. 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.”
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, called on Trump to “reverse this dangerous decision” to withdraw, saying in a statement that it threatened regional security and sent a message to Iran and Russia, as well as U.S. allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner.
McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, said in a statement: “A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator who is generally a vocal Trump supporter, on the Fox News Channel criticized the Syria pullout decision as “impulsive.”
France warned that the U.S. decision to withdraw from northeastern Syria could open the door to a revival of Islamic State, which has suffered significant battlefield losses to a U.S.-led coalition in the area.
The United States expects Turkey to take responsibility for captive Islamic State fighters in northeastern Syria if Ankara’s planned incursion seizes areas where the detained militants are held, a senior State Department official said.
The captives are held in SDF facilities south of a safe zone initially proposed by Turkey.
Aside from Trump’s threat, the State Department official and the Pentagon both said the United States did not endorse Turkey’s planned offensive.
“We made it clear (to the Turks) that we do not support this operation,” the official told reporters. “We think this operation is a very bad idea.”
A U.S. official said Turkey had been removed from a military mechanism used to coordinate air operations over northern Syria and that Turkey would no longer have access to U.S. intelligence and surveillance feeds in the region.
U.S. relations with Turkey under Trump have been rocky.
Last year, he imposed tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum products over Ankara’s detention of a U.S. pastor whose case was supported by members of his Christian conservative base.
For graphic on where Kurds live, click on KURDISTAN