In December, President Trump called for the immediate removal of all 2,000 or so troops deployed in Syria. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and national security adviser, John Bolton, are touring the Middle East and reassuring allies in the region. On Tuesday, Bolton was meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalin, in the Turkish capital, Ankara. That same day, President Erdogan canceled a meeting with Bolton, most likely over differences in perspective regarding a Kurdish militia fighting IS and taking over territories in Syria.
The US-allied Kurdish forces are benevolent to the US but to Turkey, these forces are terrorists. And the animosity goes both ways. The Kurds would rather negotiate with the Syrian President than lose their territory to Turkey.
President Trump’s first Twitter declaration to remove troops from Syria sparked outrage and staff resignations. But Trump’s latest defense policy maneuver is mottled with indecision. The timeline for pulling troops out of Syria went from 30 days, 120 days, and conditional in the span of a few days. Pulling troops is proving more thorny than expected and there are many players involved in the conflict who want a say, namely Turkey, Israel, Iran, Russia, Jordan, and the Kurdish militia.
In Turkey, Bolton hoped for a confirmation the Kurds will not be harmed. He and Pompeo voiced as much when they specified Kurdish protection as a condition for US withdrawal from Syria. But Bolton’s insistence was sure to have angered Erdogan who views the Kurds as enemies no different from IS.
While Bolton’s spokesman, Garrett Marquis, released a statement reading that a meeting with Erdogan was never confirmed because of scheduling complications, Erdogan was ranting to his Parliament. On Tuesday, Erdogan reaffirmed his position on Syria’s Kurds in a speech to Parliament when he denied concessions to the US, refused to promise the Kurds’ safety, and said military operations are ready for Turkey to take command in Syria.
President Erdogan and President Trump sealed the deal to withdraw American troops from Syria over the phone. Erdogan is not deterred by mixed messages from Administration officials, referring to the conversation he had with Trump and anticipating another phone call with the President to clarify what exactly to expect and when in relation to US occupation in Syria.
Keeping up with policy changes is proving to be troublesome. Reporters scramble for the newest stories, only to have them be contradicted or changed a day after. It does not help the President is unable to make clear, thought out announcements to inform the American public but instead hatches hasty Tweets carrying little weight. Americans’ trust in government is waning ever quicker. Different people are constantly saying different things and there are multiple pressing political issues involving the executive. Military occupation is not a laughing matter and there must be a definitive plan in place the rest of the world can refer to.
Featured image via Wikimedia