I’ll admit it, I was scratching my head wondering what the President was thinking last night when the White House announced we would be pulling troops back from the front lines at the border between Kurdish-controlled eastern Syria and Turkey. Multiple theories popped in my head. Was it a distraction from impeachment? A whim after a harsh phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan? Does Ergogan have dirt on him, perhaps associated with our relationship with Saudi Arabia?
It seems, as of now, the President is merely shifting his protection for the Kurds from an arena he loathes – our troops playing babysitter in foreign lands – to something he enjoys, namely throwing our economic weight around to make others bend to our will.
….the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
Reactions on Twitter were initially very opposed to the move. Patriots in his base do not want America to be perceived as abandoning our allies. It’s assumed Turkey will use the absence of American troops as a green light to attack the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). But with this Tweet and we can assume is back-channel communications with Ankara, it would seem as though the President hasn’t abandoned our Kurdish allies completely.
The real question is, what does the President consider to be “off limits”?
The need to end our involvement in quagmires like Syria is great, but we need to do so in a way that does not damage our standing in the international community. If we’re seen as betraying our allies following victory over the Islamic State, then most will be reluctant to follow our lead into battle in the future. But to the President’s point, we can’t stand around as human shields forever. Will Erdogan’s pleasure of our withdrawal overcome his resentment of the President’s threats? Will he test the President’s economic resolve, effectively separating our nations indefinitely for the sake of hitting the Kurds?
If the answer to the answer to that last question is, “no,” then the President has a real winning strategy on his hands. If he’s able to bring home U.S. troops and still prevent Turkey from wiping out the Kurds, it’ll be a rabbit pulled from a hat that nobody in DC saw coming.
It’s still way too early to get all of our feathers ruffled. We have an idea of what Turkey wants to do, but now that the President is issuing economic threats, how far is Turkey willing to go to engage in their dreams of invading Syria?
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