Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke over the phone before the shock announcementCredit: AP: Associated Press
They say the White House has turned its back on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – longtime allies in fighting ISIS – to face the might of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s armies alone.
It’s now feared the Kurds will follow through with their threats to release 15, 000 jihadi prisoners if the Turkish military invade .
Politician Aldar Xelilsaid in August: “Either we will fight the Turks or guard the prisoners. We cannot do both together. “
Defending his decision, the US president said he was fed up the US becoming a “sucker” by always being called in to sort out the world problems.
He acknowledged that “The Kurds fought with us,” but claimed they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”
“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote
He then added that: “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.”
The world leader said it will now be up to the region to decide what to do with capturedISIS fighters, and warned of retribution in response to any future attacks.
“We are 7, 000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us! ” he wrote.
The move follows a call between Trump and Erdogan on Sunday in which the “long-planned” military operation was given the go ahead, a White House press statement said.
However, it came AFTER the SDF was told if it withdrew from the border to create a “safe zone” it would receive US support in keeping the Turks at bay.
The Kurds agreed to the measure in August to show their seriousness about stability in the region but they say today’s announcement directly contradicts what they were told.
The SDF said the American withdrawal began first from areas along the Syria-Turkey border.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also says American troops were evacuating positions near the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad.
One Syria Kurdish official told NBC: “The Americans are traitors. They have abandoned us to a Turkish massacre.
“We can no longer fight against ISIS and have to defend ourselves. This could allow ISIS to return to the region.”
The SDF added later in an official statement: “The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey.”
Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, tweeted that his group is now no longer expecting the US to protect Northern Syria.
“But people here are ow ed an explanation regarding the security mechanism deal and destruction of fortifications, “he added.
The SDF had earlier removed fortification from the areas, considered a threat by Turkey, and withdrawn with heavy weapons.
The Kurdish-led fighters have been the main US-backed force in Syria in the fight against ISIS.
In March, the group captured the last sliver of land held by the extremists, marking the end of the so-called caliphate that was declared by ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.
“We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, the SDF today warned pointing out it has already lost 11, 000 fighters in the war against ISIS in Syria.
It said ISIS sleeper cells are already plotting to break free some 15, 000 militants detained by Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria.
It is still unclear how extensive the Turkish operation will be, or whether Turkish forces would clash with the US-backed Kurds.
However, observers are already saying it is a development that could jeopardise the counter-terrorism gains achieved by the American military in the fight againstISISin recent years.
Many Syria experts warned the abandonment of the Kurdish allies could even prompt them to unite with the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad to take on the much larger Turkish army.
“Allowing Turkey to move into northern Syria is one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East,” Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and former Marine who served in the Iraq war, said on Twitter.
“The Kurds will never trust America again. They will look for new alliances or independence to protect themselves. ”
The move also drew immediate outrage from some of the president’s closest allies in Congress, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham calling the decision “a disaster.”
Earlier President Erdogan warned his troops are now primed to strike.
“There is a phrase that we always say: we can come any night without warning,” he told reporters in televised remarks.
“It is absolutely out of the question for us to further tolerate the threats from these terrorist groups,” he said, referring to Kurdish militants.
Trump’s conrtroversial move was confirmed in an extraordinary statement following a call between him and President Erdogan.
The US said it will remove all of its forces from the “immediate area” and will not be involved in the Turkish operation.
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