Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria has begun. I’m not sure how Turkey is supposed to take over detention of ISIS prisoners while fighting with the SDF rages. Ergodan is coordinating with Putin. I’m not sure how this is anything but a massive cluster that harms US security.
They just won’t. The ISIS prisoners are being held by the Kurds in four camps. Even if Turkey intended to take over the camps, how many prisoners will escape in the chaos between the Kurds leaving to fight Turkey at the border, or fleeing, and Turkish forces arriving at the camps?
Hell, here’s an article from five days ago, just before Trump’s announcement:
America’s Syrian Kurdish allies are at risk of losing control of the vast camp where the families of the Islamic State’s defeated fighters are being detained as militant women increasingly assert their dominance over the camp, according to the top Kurdish military commander.
Guards at the al-Hol camp in eastern Syria are failing to contain the increasingly violent behavior of some of the residents, and the flimsy perimeter is at risk of being breached unless the international community steps in with more assistance, said the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Gen. Mazloum Kobane, who uses a nom de guerre and is known simply as Mazloum.
“There is a serious risk in al-Hol. Right now, our people are able to guard it. But because we lack resources, Daesh are regrouping and reorganizing in the camp,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “We can’t control them 100 percent, and the situation is grave.”
The al-Hol camp houses around 70,000 people, most of them women and children who were displaced by the war against the Islamic State. A majority of those are ordinary civilians caught up in the fighting who have no relationship to the militants, and more than half are children.
But as many as 30,000 are Islamic State loyalists, including the most die-hard radicals who chose to remain in the group’s self-declared caliphate until the final battle for the village of Baghouz this year, Mazloum said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in the Syrian province of Hasakah.
Around 10,000 of those are foreigners from more than 40 countries who made the journey to join the Islamic State in Syria, and they are among the most fiercely committed extremists, according to camp officials.
. . .
One of the SDF’s foremost wishes is for governments to alleviate some of the burden on the SDF by repatriating their citizens, Mazloum said. But most governments are refusing to take them back.
The Kurdish administration also needs help with funding to secure, feed and house the detainees, he said. The town-size camp, sprawled across a remote stretch of desert near the Iraqi border, is surrounded only by a rusty, sagging chain-link fence. Floodlights — paid for by the Kurds — to detect breakouts at night were smashed almost immediately by women throwing rocks, Mazloum said. The guards have no night-vision equipment, and the few closed-circuit TV cameras are useless after sunset.
Smugglers sympathetic to the Islamic State lurk in the desert nearby and close in under cover of darkness and help women and children clamber across the fence.
Someone with more expertise can tell me differently, but Trump’s claim that he’s just fulfilling on his “no more endless wars” campaign promise seems farcical to me. Isn’t this precisely the situation we want: a foreign force, funded and advised by us, takes on the risk of performing a task that is in the U.S.’s best interests? We’re in for money, but with relatively little human commitment.
Instead soon we’ll likely have caravans of ISIS loyalists pouring out of Syria.
I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to this situation. Can someone provide a high level, Cliff Notes-type summary? I was just reading that the Kurds were key in helping to stop ISIS. Yet Turkey views them as terrorists. Are both of those things true?
Turkey has been battling a Kurdish insurgency on its eastern frontier for decades (long before Erdogan). There was some justification, as the PKK certainly engaged in acts that most here would describe as terrorist in nature.
Erdogan has upped it by several levels, and wants the Kurds gone once and for all. He was not willing to engage the US in any sort of conflict. And he also was no lover of ISIS either.
As with everything in that part of the world, there are alliances within alliances, frenemies and enemiends, et al.
The biggest problem now is that it is unlikely we would ever be able to engage with the Kurds ever again, now that we’ve walked away from them twice.
Thanks. So basically Turkey considers both ISIS and the Kurds to be terrorists, but the US only views ISIS as terrorists, and thus chose a side. Now all of that is being undone because Trump is an idiot. And the result could be that thousands of previously contained ISIS fighters could become active again.
Is that about right?
This is pretty good / fair
barbed wire Bob
Not quite. The Kurds are the backbone of the SDF but they are also affiliated with the PKK which is listed as a terrorist organization by the US. So the US had to step rather carefully when it came to handling relations between the Kurds and Turkey (and pretty much every other nation in the region with a large Kurdish population). At the start of the conflict the US rightly, IMO, considered ISIS to be the greater threat so they supported the SDF whilst turning a blind eye to their association with the PKK. But since the ISIS threat has been largely eliminated, its been very difficult for the US to continue to support the SDF ( and as a result, indirectly supporting the PKK) and defy a NATO ally at the same time. My opinion is that the situation for the US is untenable and that really sucks for the Kurds since they have been good allies, but unless you want to help them establish an independent Kurdistan, which means you would have to go to war with every nation in the area, there’s not much the US can do.
FYI, more background articles
I don’t pretend to know the best policy, but I’m fairly certain it would come about by getting input from experts and stakeholders. Our traitor in chief makes unilateral decisions that only make sense from his own self interest. Real or perceived.
barbed wire Bob
I don’t really see how that is “untenable,” unless you think Turkey would be dumb enough to attack U.S. troops, which would result at minimum in their prompt expulsion from NATO and extreme sanctions.
Regarding the bolded, Turkey threatened to do that in January 2019.
The Guardian: Turkey says it will launch Syria offensive if US delays pullout
Foreign minister warns US not to put off exit with ‘excuses’ about Turks massacring Kurds
Edit: one of the reasons why I think the situation is untenable is because of Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria in December 2018. That basically upended a carefully planned strategy that was put in place by the Obama Administration that required the US to maintain a large military presence in Syria for years. That plan went out the window once the troop withdrawals were announced. At this point there’s not much that the US can do except to try to make lemonade out of a lemon. This article explains the situation far better than I ever could.
Foreign Affairs: Hard Truths in Syria
America Can’t Do More With Less, and It Shouldn’t Try
Didn’t Turkey not send any troops to combat in WW2 and join the Germans in WW1
Mostly true, although it was the Ottomans in WWI. The Turks stayed neutral throughout most of WWII, but strictly enforcing the Montreaux Convention and keeping the Axis navies out of the Straits/Black Sea helped kept the Soviets in the War.
[REDACTED COMMENTS: PLACEHOLDER]
Daniel Dale: Asked about the possibility of ISIS escapees, Trump says “Well, they’re going to be escaping to Europe.”
I think the implications of this go beyond this one situation
barbed wire Bob
Turkey signed a non-aggression pact with Germany and stayed neutral until February 1945. At that time the Soviets were invading Bulgaria and I’m guessing Turkey declared war in order to stay on good terms with the allies.
In WW1 the Ottoman Empire was initially neutral, albeit pro-German. It wasn’t until the German battle cruiser Goeben, ostensibly a Ottoman ship after it’s “purchase” by the Empire was arranged by the Germans, raided the Russian Black Sea coast with the purpose of getting the Ottoman Empire embroiled in the war. To make a long story short, the Ottomans lost a good portion of their Empire but Ataturk made modern Turkey out of what was left.
[REDACTED COMMENTS: PLACEHOLDER]
Jennifer Griffin: I just spoke to a distraught US Special Forces soldier who is among the 1000 or so US troops in Syria tonight who is serving alongside the SDF Kurdish forces. It was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever taken. “I am ashamed for the first time in my career.” This veteran US Special forces soldier has trained indigenous forces on multiple continents. He is on the frontlines tonight and said they are witnessing Turkish atrocities. “Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It’s horrible,” this military source on the ground told me.“We met every single security agreement. The Kurds met every single agreement. There was NO threat to the Turks – NONE – from this side of the border.” “This is insanity,” the concerned US service member told me. “”I don’t know what they call atrocities but they are happening.”This American soldier told me the Kurds have not left their positions guarding the ISIS prisoners. In fact “they prevented a prison break last night without us.” “They are not abandoning our side (yet).” The Kurds are “pleading for our support.” We are doing “nothing.”Troops on the ground in Syria and their commanders were “surprised” by the decision Sunday night. Of the President’s decision: “He doesn’t understand the problem. He doesn’t understand the repercussions of this. Erdogan is an Islamist, not a level headed actor.”According to this US soldier on the ground tonight in Syria: “The Kurds are as close to Western thinking in the Middle East as anyone. “It’s a shame. It’s horrible.” “This is not helping the ISIS fight.” Re: ISIS prisoners: “Many of them will be free in the coming days and weeks.”This US Special Forces soldier wanted me to know: “The Kurds are sticking by us. No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us.” Disappointed in the decisions coming from their senior leaders.
Where do the Turk and Russian interests align here? Kind of confused because I thought the Erdogan despises Assad while the Russians obviously prop him up as a puppet.
Morgan’s Magic Snowplow
One day we’re going to learn more about Trump’s motivations for doing this and it’s going to be astoundingly damning. I don’t know what it will be, but it’ll be bad. I don’t believe for a second that Erdogan just asked nicely on the phone and Trump simply accepted, with nothing more to it than that.
Look toward a big building in Istanbul that is financed by Russians.
Everything comes back to buildings financed by oligarchs. With that viewpoint everything makes sense.
geoduck no quahog
Co-worker I know overseas told me to look at the money…construction money.
Found this article on Reuters from yesterday:
Erdogan made no mention of the cost of his plans for northeast Syria, but state broadcaster TRT gave a figure of 151 billion lira ($27 billion).
That figure, and the scale of the potential construction projects, has already lifted shares in Turkish cement companies that have production plants close to the Syrian border.
…“The buying is due to developments in Syria … the expectation of reconstruction in the region,” said an analyst at one Turkish brokerage.
In theory, a building boom on its southern border is exactly the boost Turkey’s economy needs. It slipped into recession at the end of last year, following years of growth fueled by a surge in construction funded by cheap credit. Firms in the sector have been amongst the hardest hit from the downturn.
Where the money would come from to fund the building projects – even assuming Turkey is able to control the 300 mile (500 km) wide strip border – is another question.
“When you look at the length of the border and the Turks say they want a safe zone all along it … demilitarised, controlled by Turkey and then to put 3 million refugees there and get the Europeans to pay $26 billion, it’s not going to happen,” a European diplomatic source said.
Not so sure it won’t happen, albeit the money may not all come from the EU.
Yes, it’s not just a betrayal of the Kurds. It’s a betrayal of every American soldier and diplomat who has ever worked with the Kurds, or more broadly, of U.S. national interests. Cui bono? Turkey, Russia ISIS and Iran.
Trump’s treachery is being compared to Bush Sr.’s betrayal of the Kurds (and the Shia) after the first Iraq War, but this is much, much worse than that. Bush’s promise (to protect them from Saddam) was a much more difficult promise to keep, whereas Trump’s betrayal is a gift to Turkey and Russia or worse, a grift, trading a US withdrawal in exchange for Turkish and Russians favors.
And yet, the vast majority of active military and vets will vote for Trump.
This situation is appalling and his comments are nauseating.