Trump's Syria-Turkey-Kurd F*ckbungle, Sort Of Explained
Now that Donald Trump has brought his very good brain to the situation in northern Syria, announcing yesterday a complete pullout of the 1,000 US troops there, everything has very rapidly gone -- in foreign policy parlance -- even further to shit. While the US troops in the area haven't actually left yet, because the Turkish military has closed the roads, America's complete abandonment of its Kurdish allies has led the Kurdish forces to suddenly ally themselves with the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, inviting Syrian armed forces back into the area for the first time in years.
Don't worry, it gets even more confusing! The Daily Beast reports today that US forces have been attacking Syrian military units headed to help the Kurds, our allies until last week, in resisting the Turkish incursion into Syria that Trump gave the go-ahead for. It's one of those "the friend of my former friend is my enemy" things.
As the Kurds focus on fighting the Turkish military and Syrian Arab militias allied with Turkey, they've left thousands of ISIS prisoners, and tens of thousands of ISIS family members, unguarded, and the EU is warning ISIS is likely to reconstitute itself as a regional military and terrorist threat. The New York Times reports that before pulling out, the US forces "failed to transfer five dozen 'high value' Islamic State detainees out of the country." Oops!
Ah, and let's not forget the 50 or so nuclear weapons the US has stored at an airbase in Turkey. Maybe Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is holding them hostage, or maybe the US is working on quietly getting them out.
So yes, the best strategic mind of the new century has definitely made his way into the history books of the future, assuming anyone will be around to write them.
The situation in Syria has become swiftly fuckbungled in just the last half day; for an overview, check this New York Times analysis by David Sanger, who notes that Trump got into this mess by ignoring his advisers and trusting his gut, which is full of wormy Big Macs.
[This] much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America's longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.
The Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), left stranded by the US, quickly announced an alliance with Assad's government, which said Sunday its troops were headed to northern Syria to fight "Turkish aggression." Kurds, pissed off at the American betrayal, refused to allow US troops to take away a bunch of "high-value" ISIS prisoners they held, plus a whole bunch of boring old normal ISIS prisoners:
Together, these facilities hold about 11,000 men, about 9,000 of them Syrians or Iraqis. About 2,000 come from 50 other nations whose governments have refused to repatriate them.
The fighting has raised concerns that jihadists detained in the battle to defeat ISIS could escape, facilitating the reconstitution of the Islamic State.
Camps holding family members of ISIS fighters have been left unguarded, the Washington Post reports:
Some 950 foreign women and children were among potentially thousands of escapees from the Ain Issa camp.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said late Sunday that it had "grave concerns" for the population of the camp, which hosts approximately 13,000 civilians.
On the road to al-Hol, a sprawling camp holding 70,000 people disgorged from the Islamic State's final scrap of territory, SDF forces have also pulled back.
"It's quiet in the camp for now, but we're all scared of the uncertainty," said a medic, speaking on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media. "We thought that America would protect us here. Why are they walking away?"
Because Donald Trump probably thought "we're bringing the troops home" (which we aren't) would get him reelected.
There's also this disturbing report from Foreign Policy's Pentagon reporter Laura Seligman. She says a "Senior U.S. administration official" says the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army -- the militia accused of executing Kurdish prisoners and killing a female Kurdish politician Saturday -- has been releasing ISIS prisoners, then blaming the Kurdish SDF for letting them out.
Assad's move to to stop the Turkish invasion -- and maybe "help" the Kurds, who knows? -- is being met with airstrikes by the US, reports the Daily Beast:
Late Sunday night, local news sources such as Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and other outlets reported that U.S. aircraft launched airstrikes against pro-Assad positions near Tabqa, Mansour, and in Khasham, killing and injuring an unspecified number of fighters.
Ah, yes, and about those nukes in Turkey: The New York Times reports that
over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials.
Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan's hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.
"I think this is a first — a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces," Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote last week.
We're sure everything will be just fine, until it isn't. And in the meantime, tens of thousands of civilians are trying to flee to safety, if only they can figure out where the hell that might be, as CNN reported last week, even before the latest insanity got underway:
In conclusion, it looks like Donald Trump will have plenty of time to draft and polish his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, which may need a few revisions over the next few weeks. Or hours. The end.
UPDATE: Trump's gonna do sanctions, according to a statement he definitely didn't write. No mention of the Kurds, because Trump's done with them.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.