The Pentagon on Friday strongly denied accusations it was abandoning its Kurdish allies in Syria as Turkey continued its military offensive in the country’s northeast, forcing 100,000 persons to flee amid heavy fighting.
“To be clear, we are not abandoning our Kurdish companion forces, and US troops stay with them in other components of Syria. The impulsive action of President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan to invade northern Syria has place the United States in a challenging scenario,” the US secretary of defence, Mark Esper, told reporters.
“No one green-lighted this operation by Turkey, just the opposite. We pushed back incredibly difficult at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation,” Esper stated.
Esper’s comments came amid sharp criticism of US President Donald Trump’s choice to pull back American troops in the area, leaving the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US’s most important ally in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) without having US military assistance in the region.
Just days right after the choice, Turkey launched a military operation aimed at ridding the border region of Kurdish fighters and developing a “secure zone” to resettle Syrian refugees.
The SDF is led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a “terrorist” group.
Democrats and prime Republicans slammed the US choice to withdraw troops, expressing worry more than what would take place to the Kurds and the progress produced in the fight against ISIL.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, ordinarily a staunch Trump ally, led the chorus of disagreement that came from other politicians, analysts, and Evangelical Christians, amongst other individuals, saying the choice could be the “most significant error of [Trump’s] presidency”.
“Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration. This move guarantees the re-emergence of ISIS,” Graham stated, as Turkey launched its operation on Wednesday.
Graham has promised to introduce a bipartisan bill to impose a list of sanctions on Turkey more than its operation. Republicans in the Property of Representatives have vowed to do the exact same.
Following the criticism, Trump promised to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if Ankara did something he regarded as “off limits”. That threat was repeated by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who stated the US would “shut down the Turkish economy” if Ankara went also far.
Mnuchin stated Trump had authorised the drafting of “incredibly substantial” sanctions that the US could use “if we have to have to”.
‘Stupid endless wars’
But as Trump defends his choice to withdraw troops, saying he campaigned on a guarantee of having the US out of “stupid endless wars” in the Middle East, some authorities, albeit in the minority, have backed his new method.
Supporting the president’s move, Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute, who served as a specific assistant to former President Ronald Reagan, stated it was “just unreasonable” to anticipate the US to preserve its forces in Syria.
“The concept that the US need to preserve its forces in Syria, develop a democracy and stand up to Iran in Syria is just unreasonable,” Bandow told Al Jazeera.
“To believe that Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq will let other individuals carve out their nations to establish a Kurdish state in their regions and that the US ought to somehow keep in the Middle East to defend it is rather extraordinary,” he added.
Mark Kimmitt, a retired US basic and former assistant secretary of state, stated the US did not sign up for a lengthy-term commitment to Kurds.
“The US agreed to a ‘temporary, tactical and transactional’ partnership with the YPG. But the partnership is a battlefield partnership only,” Kimmett told Al Jazeera. “The US does not endorse the YPG ideology nor its ambition to declare an independent nation in northern Syria.”
Trump appeared to strike that tone earlier this week when he told reporters that when Kurdish forces fought alongside US troops in the battle against ISIL, they did so for “their land”.
He stated the Kurds did not assistance the US “in the second planet war. They did not assistance us with Normandy”. With the Kurds predominantly living far more than four,000 km (two,482 miles) away and not obtaining an independent state, Trump did not elaborate on the assistance he believed they need to have supplied in the course of the 1944 Invasion of Normandy.
“With all that becoming stated, we like the Kurds,” he stated, as he named the Turkey offensive a “poor concept”.
Meanwhile, Turkish forces intensified their strikes on northeast Syria on Friday, with Erdogan saying Ankara “will not quit … no matter what any one says”.
ISIL also claimed duty in its 1st huge attack due to the fact the Turkish offensive started. A suicide bomber hit the city of Qamishli in northeast Syria.
The Turkish assault prompted Graham to step up his criticism on Friday, tweeting: “We are witnessing ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey, the destruction of a trustworthy ally in the Kurds, and the reemergence of ISIS.”
It remains unclear what certain Turkish actions would tip the balance and push the Trump administration to respond with the conditional sanctions it announced on Friday. Esper and Army Common Mark Milley admitted that in spite of their calls, there was no sense that Turkey would quit its assault on northeast Syria.
Tim Constantine, a conservative speak show host in Washington, DC, stated Trump’s “seemingly inconsistent” positions on the Kurdish problem could have place the president “into a tight corner … that if he reversed himself or does nothing at all he will continue to have criticism against him”.
Constantine told Al Jazeera that he believes Democrats would attack Trump no matter which choice he produced, admitting nonetheless: “The perception that Kurdish militias are becoming abandoned does not play properly in the minds of the American public.”
Comply with Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports.