The White House has given the green light to a Turkish offensive into northern Syria, moving US forces out of the area in an abrupt foreign policy change that will in effect abandon Washington’s long-time allies, the Kurds.
Kurdish forces have spearheaded the campaign against Isis in the region, but the policy swerve, following a phone conversation between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, means Turkey would take custody of captured Isis fighters, the White House said.
A White House statement issued just before 11 pm on Sunday, said that “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the Isis territorial “caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.”
As of last month, the US said about 1,000 US troops were operating in northeastern Syria. Sunday’s statement did not specify if this constituted a full withdrawal of personnel from the country.
The statement suggested that in return for US acquiescence in a Turkish offensive, Erdogan had assured Trump that Turkey would take over the detention of Isis militants captured by the SDF, on the battlefield. The custody of Europeans and other foreign fighters has long been one of Trump’s preoccupations, and he has lambasted European governments for not taking responsibility for their own nationals in Isis ranks.
“The US government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured Isis fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused,” Friday night White House statement went on.
“The US will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer. Turkey will now be responsible for all Isis fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial “caliphate” by the United States.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu said on Oct. 7 that Turkey is determined to ensure the country’s security by clearing the region from the terrorists.
“Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, we have supported the territorial integrity of this country, and we will continue to support it. We are determined to ensure the survival and security of our country by clearing the region from terrorists,” Çavusoglu said.