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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 162)

The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

The Trump administration directed Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees.

The decision to block Mr. Sondland, a top American diplomat involved in its pressure campaign on Ukraine, hours before he was scheduled to sit for a deposition in the basement of the Capitol, is certain to provoke an immediate conflict. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment.

In making the decision, the Trump administration appears to be calculating that it is better off risking the House’s ire than letting Mr. Sondland show up and set a precedent for cooperation with an inquiry they have strenuously argued is illegitimate.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump attacked the impeachment inquiry.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 08dc-impeachbriefing-sub-articleLarge The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Perry, Rick impeachment

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, making a statement to reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a staunch ally of President Trump, said Tuesday he will invite Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, to lay out his Ukraine theories before the committee.

Mr. Giuliani has led the push to enlist the Ukranians to help investigate the business dealings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son and has embraced a conspiracy theory that Ukraine — not Russia — meddled in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump picked up on that theory in his now-infamous call to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in July when he asked about a “server” that could be in Ukraine.

The hearing promises to be something of a counterweight to the House impeachment inquiry.

“Given the House of Representatives’ behavior, it is time for the Senate to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine,” Mr. Graham said.

With Democrats on the panel, the gambit might not be a slam dunk. Mr. Graham promised, “I will offer to Mr. Giuliani the opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to inform the committee of his concerns,” to which Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, responded, “Good. I have questions.”

When Energy Secretary Rick Perry led an American delegation to the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president in May, he took the opportunity to suggest the names of Americans the new Ukrainian government might want to advise and oversee the country’s state-owned gas company.

Mr. Perry’s focus during the trip on Ukraine’s energy industry was in keeping with a push he had begun months earlier under the previous Ukrainian president, and it was consistent with United States policy of promoting anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine and greater energy independence from Russia.

But his actions during the trip have entangled him in a controversy about the pressure campaign waged by President Trump and his allies to pressure the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals.

Mr. Perry’s trip raised questions about whether he was seeking to provide help to certain Americans interested in gaining a foothold in the Ukrainian energy business at a time when the new Ukrainian government was looking to the United States for signals of support in its simmering conflict with Russia.

— Kenneth P. Vogel, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Andrew E. Kramer

Read more: Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case

  • President Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.

  • A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.

Video

Westlake Legal Group vidxx-trump-ukraine-1-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600 The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Perry, Rick impeachment

President Trump’s personal lawyer. The prosecutor general of Ukraine. Joe Biden’s son. These are just some of the names mentioned in the whistle-blower’s complaint. What were their roles? We break it down.CreditCreditIllustration by The New York Times

Westlake Legal Group trump-impeachment-congress-promo-1559334647091-articleLarge-v68 The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Perry, Rick impeachment

Complete List: Who Supports an Impeachment Inquiry Against Trump?

More than 90 percent of House Democrats now support impeachment proceedings.

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Witness in Trump-Ukraine Matter Ordered Not to Speak in Impeachment Inquiry

Westlake Legal Group defaultPromoCrop Witness in Trump-Ukraine Matter Ordered Not to Speak in Impeachment Inquiry United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) impeachment House of Representatives Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration directed a top American diplomat involved in its pressure campaign on Ukraine not to appear Tuesday morning for a scheduled deposition with House Democrats conducting an impeachment inquiry, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment.

But in making the decision on Tuesday, hours before he was scheduled to sit for a deposition in the basement of the Capitol, the Trump administration appears to be making the calculation that it is better off risking the House’s ire than letting Mr. Sondland show up and set a precedent for cooperation with an inquiry they have strenuously argued is illegitimate.

Mr. Sondland has become enmeshed in the burgeoning scandal into how the president sought to push the Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals. Although Ukraine is not in the union, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Sondland — a wealthy hotelier and campaign contributor — to take a lead in relations between the Trump administration and the country. Democrats consider him a key witness to what transpired between the two countries.

Mr. Sondland interacted directly with Mr. Trump, speaking with the president several times around key moments that House Democrats are now investigating, including before and after Mr. Trump’s July call with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The president asked Mr. Zelensky on the call to do him “a favor” and investigate the business dealings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

Text messages provided to Congress last week showed that Mr. Sondland and another senior diplomat had worked on language for a statement they wanted the Ukrainian president to put out in August that would have committed him to investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals. The diplomats consulted with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, about the statement, believing they needed pacify him in order to pacify Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump and allow the United States to normalize relations with the Ukrainians.

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When ‘Get Out’ Is a President’s National Security Strategy

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-diplo-02-facebookJumbo When ‘Get Out’ Is a President’s National Security Strategy United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria State Department Senate Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense Department Assad, Bashar al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump is once again pursuing a national security strategy at odds with the official position of his government, ordering a pullback of American forces just inside the Syrian border. It is a move that his own senior advisers have warned would risk new chaos throughout the region.

He is demonstrating that in his pursuit of ending America’s “endless wars,” no American troop presence abroad is too small to escape his desire to terminate it. In this case, the mission has been to prevent Islamic State forces from reconstituting, and to keep another conflict at bay — a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces, including on those that have been America’s staunchest allies in the fight against ISIS.

To the Pentagon and the State Department, that is a traditional role for American troops, honed over 75 years of global leadership. But if there is a Trump doctrine around the world after 32 months of chaotic policymaking, it may have been expressed in its purest form when the president vented on Twitter on Monday morning: “Time for us to get out.”

Just this summer, the State Department’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, James F. Jeffrey, one of America’s most experienced Middle East hands, told a public forum not to worry about a precipitous withdrawal. “We plan on having a small residual force to remain on for an indefinite time,” he said. The president, he added, “is much seized with this.” But perhaps not seized the way Mr. Jeffrey imagined.

Long before he was elected, Mr. Trump had sounded a recurrent theme about Syria — as well as about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the American presence in Japan and South Korea, and other global deployments. Acting as the world’s policeman was too expensive, he complained. Allies played us for “suckers.” Both in the campaign and today, Mr. Trump sensed that many Americans share his view — and polls show he is right, even among some who loathe Mr. Trump himself.

So when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey spoke by telephone with Mr. Trump on Sunday, the Turkish leader likely knew exactly what he was doing: circumventing the American generals and diplomats who sing the praises of maintaining the traditional American forward presence around the world. The Turkish leader could appeal to Mr. Trump’s instincts, and clear a path for his forces to fight those he calls “terrorists” over his border, even though they are the same Kurdish troops who have long been allies of the United States.

Mr. Trump’s sudden abandonment of the Kurds was another example of the independent, parallel foreign policy he has run from the White House, which has largely abandoned the elaborate systems created since President Harry Truman’s day to think ahead about the potential costs and benefits of presidential decisions. That system is badly broken today. Mr. Trump is so suspicious of the professional staff — many drawn from the State Department and the C.I.A. — and so dismissive of the “deep state” foreign policy establishment, that he usually announces decisions first, and forces the staff to deal with them later.

It has happened time and time again on Syria. When he announced a unilateral withdrawal late last year, it was the final straw for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose resignation letter was a searing indictment of Mr. Trump’s disregard for allies and alliances.

By Monday morning, both traditional American allies and Mr. Trump’s staunchest Republican defenders, the ones standing up for him in the impeachment battle, argued that the decision was a victory for authoritarian leaders across the geopolitical spectrum.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said Mr. Trump had rewarded America’s adversaries. “A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement, a reference to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

In the most biting line, he urged Mr. Trump “to exercise American leadership.”

Mr. McConnell was among the Trump allies who cheered the president when, not even three months after his inauguration, he ordered the first military strike of his presidency, a missile attack against Syrian air bases in response to evidence that Mr. Assad had, once again, gassed his own people. Mr. Trump said he reacted to pictures of Syrian children suffering in the gas attack. But he also ordered the action while Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, was at his dinner table at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, eating what the president called “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen.” It was clearly meant as a message: There was a new sheriff in town.

Mr. Xi may have a different view now. Mr. Trump’s calls for restraint have often followed his threats of fire and fury. Mr. Xi and the North Koreans may both have reason to believe that Mr. Trump may pull back from the Pacific — their fondest wish — in return for few concessions. It is a possibility Mr. Trump himself has periodically raised with aides while complaining about trade deficits.

After Mr. Trump mysteriously suspended military aid to Ukraine in July — now the subject of an impeachment inquiry into whether he was holding the aid hostage in return for politically damaging information on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — his stated argument was that the United States paid too much, and Europeans too little.

If there was any discussion in the White House about how slowing the military aid might damage efforts to contain Russia’s power in the region, it has not surfaced.

When he pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, it was over the objections of a secretary of state, a national security adviser and a secretary of defense — all since departed — who urged him to build on the past agreement. Sixteen months later, he fired his next national security adviser, the hawkish John R. Bolton, for fear that Mr. Bolton would send him down the road to another “forever war.”

In that regard, Mr. Trump has correctly read the American people who, after Iraq and Afghanistan, also have a deep distaste for forever wars. It is the one issue on which Mr. Trump and former President Barack Obama agree, and a reason for Mr. Obama’s decision not to make good on his promise of bombing Mr. Assad for crossing the “red line” of using poison gas.

But Mr. Trump’s objections go beyond Mr. Obama’s. “Like some of those who are running to replace him, President Trump has conflated ‘forever wars’ with an open-ended presence,” said Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior George W. Bush administration official as America went into two wars between 2001 and 2003.

“We’ve had 70 years of open-ended presence in Germany, Japan, South Korea,” he noted. “It’s part of an alliance. And it keeps countries from doing things you don’t want them to do,” like building their own nuclear weapons.

The Syria presence, Mr. Mattis had argued, was in that vein — low risk, low casualty, high returns for America’s security. It was a tripwire to keep the Islamic State from rising again, and Turkey from starting a war. Mr. Trump’s Sunday night tweet, saying everyone in the region was going to have to work things out themselves, announced an abdication of that role.

He may well pull back in coming days; in fact, by lunchtime on Monday he already appeared to be pivoting, declaring on Twitter that “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey.”

It was a strange threat to utter to a NATO ally. It did not specify what was out of bounds. And most of all, it did not describe how the United States would exercise that kind of power in a world in which America is viewed in many capitals as already getting out.

Lara Jakes and Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-ukraine1-facebookJumbo Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Presidential Election of 2020 Perry, Rick natural gas Naftogaz of Ukraine Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — When Energy Secretary Rick Perry led an American delegation to the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president in May, he took the opportunity to suggest the names of Americans the new Ukrainian government might want to advise and oversee the country’s state-owned gas company.

Mr. Perry’s focus during the trip on Ukraine’s energy industry was in keeping with a push he had begun months earlier under the previous Ukrainian president, and it was consistent with United States policy of promoting anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine and greater energy independence from Russia.

But his actions during the trip have entangled him in a controversy about a pressure campaign waged by President Trump and his allies directed at the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. That effort sought to pressure Mr. Zelensky’s government to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perry’s trip raised questions about whether he was seeking to provide certain Americans help in gaining a foothold in the Ukrainian energy business at a time when the new Ukrainian government was looking to the United States for signals of support in its simmering conflict with Russia.

Mr. Trump seemed to suggest last week that he made a July 25 phone call to Mr. Zelensky, during which he repeatedly urged his Ukrainian counterpart to pursue investigations that could politically benefit him, at the urging of Mr. Perry. Mr. Trump told congressional Republicans last week that Mr. Perry wanted him to discuss the liquefied natural gas supply with Mr. Zelensky, Axios reported.

That topic did not specifically come up in the call between the two leaders, according to the reconstructed transcript released by the White House. Text messages released last week by House investigators showed that other officials were suggesting that the president speak with Mr. Zelensky to nail down an agreement for Ukraine to move ahead with the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.

At a news conference on Monday in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he was meeting with Ukrainian and Polish energy officials, Mr. Perry said he asked Mr. Trump “multiple times” to hold a phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Perry’s role in the diplomacy between the countries highlights the degree to which Mr. Trump entrusted his Ukraine policy to an ad hoc coalition of loyalists inside and outside the government, especially after the recall of the ambassador to Ukraine amid questions among Mr. Trump’s supporters about her loyalty to the president. It also reveals the extent to which Ukrainian politics and national security revolve around energy supplies.

Mr. Perry’s efforts, while broadly consistent with American national security and energy objectives, intersected with those of the figures involved in the pressure campaign. Two American diplomats who attended Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration with Mr. Perry — Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine — pushed Mr. Zelensky to publicly commit to the investigations and were involved in setting up the call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky.

They appeared to work on the effort with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a leading force in the campaign to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue the investigations. Two associates of Mr. Giuliani also sought changes to the leadership of the Ukrainian state-owned gas company, Naftogaz. Those changes would have required approval from a supervisory board Mr. Perry sought to shape.

One of Mr. Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas, pitched a liquefied natural gas deal to the chief executive of Naftogaz in early spring, as The New York Times reported last month.

The deal was rejected by the Naftogaz executive.

But Mr. Parnas and a partner who was also involved in Mr. Giuliani’s political efforts in Ukraine, Igor Fruman, also sought to install a presumptive ally as Naftogaz’s chief executive. They told a gas executive named Andrey Favorov that they could use their American political connections to help him become chief executive of Naftogaz, suggesting that, if appointed, he might steer the company to buy liquefied natural gas from them, according to Dale Perry, the managing partner of a company that competes with one run by Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman.

Mr. Favorov, who is a lower-ranking executive at Naftogaz, rejected the proposal, which was first reported by The Associated Press.

Dale Perry, who is not related to the energy secretary, said he found it “very troubling and disturbing” that Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman boasted that they had worked with Mr. Giuliani to force the recall this spring of the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch.

But people in Ukraine and the United States who are familiar with the conversations said the Ukrainian government had requested recommendations from Mr. Perry for Americans who could advise Naftogaz and the government on governance reforms and liquefied natural gas transportation.

Mr. Perry recommended four Americans as possible advisers on energy issues, according to the Americans and Ukrainians who are familiar with the conversations. Names floated included Carlos Pascual, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, and Daniel Yergin, an author and energy expert who has worked with Mr. Pascual at an energy advisory firm.

Mr. Perry, a former governor of Texas, specifically recommended two Texas-based investors who work in Ukraine, Michael Bleyzer and Robert Bensh, for a supervisory board of Naftogaz, according to the Americans and Ukrainians familiar with the conversations.

Mr. Bleyzer, a Republican donor, has proposed gas deals with Naftogaz, according to people familiar with his efforts.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said in a statement on Monday night that Mr. Perry “has consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kiev’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine.” As part of that effort, and at the request of Mr. Zelensky’s administration, Ms. Hynes said Mr. Perry “recommended the names of some widely respected individuals in the American energy sector, including government experts” at the Energy Department. But, she said Mr. Perry “did not recommend these individuals be placed on any board.”

Nonetheless, the circulation of the names of Mr. Bleyzer and Mr. Bensh as possible Naftogaz appointments led to speculation that Naftogaz was considering removing from the supervisory board a former Obama administration official named Amos J. Hochstein. Mr. Hochstein had worked with Mr. Biden on his Ukraine efforts as vice president.

That imbued the discussion about the board appointments with political overtones at a time when Democrats were beginning to build an impeachment case around the actions of Mr. Trump and his team to press Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son, who had served on the board of a private Ukrainian gas company.

Adding to the complexity of the situation: When Mr. Zelensky dispatched one of his top aides to Washington in July to meet with members of Congress and the Trump administration, and to try to connect with Mr. Giuliani, some of the meetings on Capitol Hill were arranged by a Naftogaz lobbyist, and attended by a Naftogaz official.

Naftogaz, until just a few years ago a money-losing monopoly stained by corruption, has been substantially overhauled in recent years to survive without Russian gas and to compete in the European Union market.

To comply with European Union regulations and be able to sell Ukrainian gas to the bloc’s energy-hungry countries, the company has been weaning itself off subsidies and spinning off its gas-transmission operations into a new entity with a guaranteed income of at least $2 billion a year.

Naftogaz officials said that this company, which will come into existence in January, and Naftogaz’s operations storing gas underground could attract American investments, and that they were at the heart of what the United States administration was interested in.

Naftogaz officials said the American interest was sufficient that Mr. Sondland held further discussions about the planned spinoff of the transmission operations in Brussels.

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Caught Between Trump, Turkey and Kurds, Pentagon Struggles to Piece Together Syria Strategy

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-military-facebookJumbo Caught Between Trump, Turkey and Kurds, Pentagon Struggles to Piece Together Syria Strategy United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense Department

WASHINGTON — For nine months, the Pentagon played down the presence of its 1,000 troops in Syria, hoping that President Trump would not focus on the extent to which the American military was continuing to fight the Islamic State despite his order in December to pull out.

On Sunday, the president appeared to say he had had enough.

Now, for the second time in less than a year, the Defense Department, the State Department, Congress and staff across the national security establishment are scrambling to respond to the words of a president who views Syria and the fight against ISIS as a battle largely won and done for American troops. On Monday, after a White House announcement the night before that Mr. Trump was moving American troops out of the way of a threatened Turkish incursion into Syria, Defense Department officials were struggling to put their already piecemeal Syria military strategy back together again.

It will not be easy. Caught between furious Kurdish allies who see Mr. Trump’s announcement as abandonment, an authoritarian Turkish leader who may take Mr. Trump’s words as tacit permission to move against Kurds in northern Syria, and an American president who has made clear he wants out of the region, the Pentagon is approaching a junction that the military feared was coming for some time.

The Defense Department “made lemonade out of lemons” the first time Mr. Trump announced a Syria withdrawal, said Derek Chollet, an assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. The Pentagon withdrew 1,000 of its 2,000 troops, moved some command elements to Iraq, and continued to aid Kurdish fighters still fighting the Islamic State and holding some 11,000 Islamic State prisoners of war.

But officials did not trumpet their mission or their efforts.

It will be a lot harder to pull this feint again, military experts said, particularly if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey goes ahead with his threatened incursion into northern Syria, as it has been the presence of American troops alongside the Kurds that many believe has kept him at bay.

Pentagon officials were insisting on Monday that the United States remained firmly opposed to a Turkish incursion. “The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the president — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in northern Syria,” Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. He warned that “unilateral action creates risk for Turkey,” which would be responsible for thousands of Islamic State fighters being held by the Kurds.

But the departure of American troops from northern Syria makes it far more difficult to hold together the coalition fighting the Islamic State.

For a while, the generals at the Pentagon thought they were succeeding within the narrow confines of maneuver room that Mr. Trump gave them, obeying the president’s order while not deserting Kurdish partners and undercutting gains against the Islamic State in northeastern Syria. Defense Department officials devised a plan for the Pentagon to cut its combat force there roughly in half by early this past May, or to about 1,000 troops — and then pause with what commanders called a “residual force.”

The military would then assesses conditions on the ground and reduce the number of forces periodically, if conditions allowed, until the force levels reached the 400 troops that Mr. Trump approved in February.

And, above all else, military officials decided they would keep quiet about Syria. The strategy extended all the way to combat outposts in the country, where Special Forces officers were reminded that their mission could end quickly if the commander in chief was publicly reminded that there were still 1,000 troops there, according to one officer who recently returned from Syria.

The longer withdrawal timetable gave the Trump administration more time to negotiate with European allies who had said they would not leave troops in Syria if the United States withdrew all of its forces. It was also supposed to allow more time for Washington to work out details of a safe zone south of the Turkish border, where Mr. Erdogan wants to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees now in Turkey. Turkey also wants to make sure Kurdish fighters cannot launch terrorist attacks across its border.

By late March, the American withdrawal settled around 1,000 troops — what the military calls an “economy of force” mission. The troops effectively operated between two allies: Turkey and the Kurds. Turkey is a decades-long NATO partner. The Syrian Kurds are much more recent allies, but have played a pivotal role as the major ground force against the Islamic State.

The problem for Washington has been that the two hate each other.

After Mr. Erdogan threatened in early August to carry out a cross-border operation to attack the Syrian Kurds, American diplomats and commanders rushed to establish a series of confidence-building measures — joint reconnaissance flights and ground patrols by American and Turkish forces — along a 75-mile stretch of the 300-mile border east of the Euphrates River.

The American troops in northeastern Syria, largely teams of Special Forces, also provide important logistics, intelligence and other support for Syrian Kurdish fighters who continue to carry out raids and disrupt operations against Islamic State targets.

Since the American-backed forces ousted the Islamic State from its last shard of territory in Syria seven months ago, the terrorist group has been gathering new strength, officials say, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at a giant allied-run tent camp in northeastern Syria called Al Hol.

“After enlisting support from the Kurds to help destroy ISIS and assuring Kurdish protection from Turkey, the U.S. has now opened the door to their destruction,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, and Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said in a statement on Monday. “This severely undercuts America’s credibility as a reliable partner and creates a power vacuum in the region that benefits ISIS.”

Pentagon officials say the American presence, and several million dollars in assistance to maintain and upgrade the Syrian Kurds’ makeshift jails in northeastern Syria, has ensured the Kurds continue to detain about 11,000 ISIS fighters, including more than 2,000 foreigners.

“It’s hard to imagine Turkey has the capacity to handle securely and appropriately the detainees long held by the Syrian Kurds — and that’s if Turkey even genuinely intends to try,” said Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council in the Obama administration. “The release or escape of such detainees would instantly energize ISIS’s efforts, already underway, to regroup and surge again.”

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U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS

Westlake Legal Group 07syria-facebookJumbo U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS United States International Relations United States Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria McGurk, Brett H Mazlum Kobani Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Free Syrian Army Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Before dawn on Monday, at a military base in northeastern Syria, an American general delivered the bad news to his Syrian counterpart.

The United States was going to allow Turkish forces to move into the area, leaving the Kurdish-led Syrian militia vulnerable.

“You are leaving us alone,” the Syrian commander, Mazlum Kobani, responded angrily, and accused the United States of complicity in a looming Turkish attack, according to a United States official and another person with knowledge of the meeting.

President Trump’s surprise announcement that the United States would allow Turkey to take over a swath of northeastern Syria, at the expense of the militia that fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State, could alter the course of the country’s eight-year civil war.

In addition to betraying the militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, analysts said, the move could empower Turkey, extending its control over another part of northern Syria. It could also create a void in the region that could benefit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

And it would likely further limit the United States’ influence over the conflict.

“The United States just threw away the last leverage it had,” said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst with the International Crisis Group. Even if the United States kept its roughly 1,000 troops in Syria, Mr. Trump’s announcement late Sunday night made it clear to the war’s other combatants that he wants out.

“They are just waiting for the tweet,” she said.

After the jihadists of the Islamic State seized control of nearly a third of northeastern Syria, the United States partnered with a Syrian Kurdish militia in 2015 to fight them. Other groups also joined to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., which claimed control over the land it liberated from ISIS.

Since then, a small contingent of American troops, now numbering about 1,000, have backed the S.D.F. in holding the area.

After the decline of ISIS, the Trump administration came to see the S.D.F. as the best means to check the influence of Iran and Russia, prevent a jihadist resurgence, and maintain a stake in eventual peace talks.

But if the S.D.F.’s hold on northeastern Syria weakens, it could make it easier for Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to reclaim the territory. An open conflict with Turkey could siphon Kurdish fighters to the front lines, allowing ISIS remnants to reassert themselves elsewhere.

Turkey has always objected to the S.D.F. presence on its border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw the Kurdish fighters who form the group’s backbone as an extension of the P.K.K., the Kurdish guerrilla movement that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

He worried that greater Kurdish autonomy in Syria was a security threat and demanded a corridor, a so-called safe zone, up to 20 miles deep and hundreds of miles long, to keep Kurdish forces at bay.

For months, American diplomats had been working to ward off Turkish threats to send troops across the border, most recently carrying out joint security measures in a small safe zone with the United States.

But Mr. Erdogan was not satisfied, and he spoke by phone with President Trump on Sunday. Shortly afterward, the White House announced that the Turkish military would enter Syria and that United States “will not support or be involved in the operation.”

Mr. Trump argued Monday that the United States’ partnership with the Kurds had essentially served its purpose, writing on Twitter that the Kurds had fought well “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

He dismissed their conflict with Turkey as of no concern to the United States. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The decision surprised many of the military and State Department officials who carry out Syria policy, and was met with opposition by Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Washington. Mr. Trump later tried to mollify his critics, saying that if Turkey “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate” its economy.

The S.D.F., which has said it lost most than 10,000 fighters battling the Islamic State alongside the United States, was bitter. Mr. Trump’s decision, Mustafa Bali, an S.D.F. spokesman, wrote on Twitter, “is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S. built during the fight against ISIS.”

He and other Kurds also shared a video on Twitter of Mr. Trump lauding the Kurds as military partners during a news conference at the United Nations last year.

“We do get along great with the Kurds. We are trying to help them a lot,” Mr. Trump said in the video, adding that many of them had “died for us.”

“I can tell you that I don’t forget, these are great people,” he said.

On Monday, American forces pulled back from two observation posts in Syria, near the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain near the Turkish border.

Turkish media and military analysts have widely reported that Turkey will soon enter the area between the towns. Although Mr. Erdogan wants a buffer zone running the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, he said this summer that he would accept a smaller area to start with and proceed step by step.

A different group of Syrian fighters, known as the Free Syrian Army, are preparing to deploy with Turkish troops. They have said the plan was to enter the two border towns, but that the Turkish-backed forces would not enter towns where Americans are based.

But the Turkish incursion raises questions about the future of the entire area under S.D.F. control, which extends for hundreds of miles along the Turkish border and deep into Syrian territory on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. It includes major cities such as Raqqa, once Islamic State’s de facto capital, some of Syria’s richest agricultural land and a number of oil fields.

The S.D.F. warned in a statement on Monday that a Turkish military incursion could force it to divert its forces from areas where ISIS remains a threat in the south to defend itself against the Turks in the north. Abandoning anti-ISIS operations would “destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the last years,” the statement said.

A Kurdish redeployment would put other American objectives at risk, too.

“Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,” Brett McGurk, a former presidential envoy who pushed for the partnership with the S.D.F. wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

An immediate concern are the Kurdish-run prisons in the area holding captured ISIS fighters and at least two large camps for their families. One of the camps, Al Hol, houses tens of thousands of people including extremists whom the S.D.F. and aid organizations have accused of seeking to re-establish ISIS rule.

The White House statement said that Turkey would assume responsibility for “all the ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” but two United States officials said there had been no discussion with Turkey or the Kurds about a possible handover. The camps and prisons are far from the area Turkey is expected to occupy.

Not long ago, the Kurds were seen as among the biggest winners in Syria’s war, having gone from being a sidelined minority to the strongest component in a military force that controlled more than a quarter of Syria’s territory, thanks to their fierce fighting and their partnership with the United States.

As their military victories against ISIS mounted, they established local councils to govern and instituted Kurdish education in their communities’ schools.

Those projects are now at risk.

A decline in American support could leave them vulnerable to attacks by ISIS or by others who resent their rise. They have few other international allies, which analysts suspect could push them to seek an accommodation with Mr. al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

But even that may not protect them from Turkey, which has sent its forces into other parts of Syria further west, displacing Kurds and establishing zones where it has provided services and resettled refugees. It says it will do the same in areas now controlled by the S.D.F.

It remains unclear how the S.D.F. would respond to a Turkish incursion, but on Monday it called on the inhabitants of northeastern Syria to “stand with our legitimate forces to defend our homeland from the Turkish aggression.”

While the S.D.F. and United States officials have sought to play down the group’s ties to the P.K.K., many of its leaders and fighters have roots in the movement and could deploy its guerrilla tactics against Turkey if it entered Syria.

“So far they have been incredibly reasonable and have shown restraint,” said Ms. Khalifa, the Syria analyst. “But I don’t know how long that is going to last.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS

Westlake Legal Group 07syria-facebookJumbo U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS United States International Relations United States Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria McGurk, Brett H Mazlum Kobani Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Free Syrian Army Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Before dawn on Monday, at a military base in northeastern Syria, an American general delivered the bad news to his Syrian counterpart.

The United States was going to allow Turkish forces to move into the area, leaving the Kurdish-led Syrian militia vulnerable.

“You are leaving us alone,” the Syrian commander, Mazlum Kobani, responded angrily, and accused the United States of complicity in a looming Turkish attack, according to a United States official and another person with knowledge of the meeting.

President Trump’s surprise announcement that the United States would allow Turkey to take over a swath of northeastern Syria, at the expense of the militia that fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State, could alter the course of the country’s eight-year civil war.

In addition to betraying the militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, analysts said, the move could empower Turkey, extending its control over another part of northern Syria. It could also create a void in the region that could benefit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

And it would likely further limit the United States’ influence over the conflict.

“The United States just threw away the last leverage it had,” said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst with the International Crisis Group. Even if the United States kept its roughly 1,000 troops in Syria, Mr. Trump’s announcement late Sunday night made it clear to the war’s other combatants that he wants out.

“They are just waiting for the tweet,” she said.

After the jihadists of the Islamic State seized control of nearly a third of northeastern Syria, the United States partnered with a Syrian Kurdish militia in 2015 to fight them. Other groups also joined to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., which claimed control over the land it liberated from ISIS.

Since then, a small contingent of American troops, now numbering about 1,000, have backed the S.D.F. in holding the area.

After the decline of ISIS, the Trump administration came to see the S.D.F. as the best means to check the influence of Iran and Russia, prevent a jihadist resurgence, and maintain a stake in eventual peace talks.

But if the S.D.F.’s hold on northeastern Syria weakens, it could make it easier for Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to reclaim the territory. An open conflict with Turkey could siphon Kurdish fighters to the front lines, allowing ISIS remnants to reassert themselves elsewhere.

Turkey has always objected to the S.D.F. presence on its border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw the Kurdish fighters who form the group’s backbone as an extension of the P.K.K., the Kurdish guerrilla movement that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

He worried that greater Kurdish autonomy in Syria was a security threat and demanded a corridor, a so-called safe zone, up to 20 miles deep and hundreds of miles long, to keep Kurdish forces at bay.

For months, American diplomats had been working to ward off Turkish threats to send troops across the border, most recently carrying out joint security measures in a small safe zone with the United States.

But Mr. Erdogan was not satisfied, and he spoke by phone with President Trump on Sunday. Shortly afterward, the White House announced that the Turkish military would enter Syria and that United States “will not support or be involved in the operation.”

Mr. Trump argued Monday that the United States’ partnership with the Kurds had essentially served its purpose, writing on Twitter that the Kurds had fought well “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

He dismissed their conflict with Turkey as of no concern to the United States. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The decision surprised many of the military and State Department officials who carry out Syria policy, and was met with opposition by Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Washington. Mr. Trump later tried to mollify his critics, saying that if Turkey “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate” its economy.

The S.D.F., which has said it lost most than 10,000 fighters battling the Islamic State alongside the United States, was bitter. Mr. Trump’s decision, Mustafa Bali, an S.D.F. spokesman, wrote on Twitter, “is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S. built during the fight against ISIS.”

He and other Kurds also shared a video on Twitter of Mr. Trump lauding the Kurds as military partners during a news conference at the United Nations last year.

“We do get along great with the Kurds. We are trying to help them a lot,” Mr. Trump said in the video, adding that many of them had “died for us.”

“I can tell you that I don’t forget, these are great people,” he said.

On Monday, American forces pulled back from two observation posts in Syria, near the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain near the Turkish border.

Turkish media and military analysts have widely reported that Turkey will soon enter the area between the towns. Although Mr. Erdogan wants a buffer zone running the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, he said this summer that he would accept a smaller area to start with and proceed step by step.

A different group of Syrian fighters, known as the Free Syrian Army, are preparing to deploy with Turkish troops. They have said the plan was to enter the two border towns, but that the Turkish-backed forces would not enter towns where Americans are based.

But the Turkish incursion raises questions about the future of the entire area under S.D.F. control, which extends for hundreds of miles along the Turkish border and deep into Syrian territory on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. It includes major cities such as Raqqa, once Islamic State’s de facto capital, some of Syria’s richest agricultural land and a number of oil fields.

The S.D.F. warned in a statement on Monday that a Turkish military incursion could force it to divert its forces from areas where ISIS remains a threat in the south to defend itself against the Turks in the north. Abandoning anti-ISIS operations would “destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the last years,” the statement said.

A Kurdish redeployment would put other American objectives at risk, too.

“Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,” Brett McGurk, a former presidential envoy who pushed for the partnership with the S.D.F. wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

An immediate concern are the Kurdish-run prisons in the area holding captured ISIS fighters and at least two large camps for their families. One of the camps, Al Hol, houses tens of thousands of people including extremists whom the S.D.F. and aid organizations have accused of seeking to re-establish ISIS rule.

The White House statement said that Turkey would assume responsibility for “all the ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” but two United States officials said there had been no discussion with Turkey or the Kurds about a possible handover. The camps and prisons are far from the area Turkey is expected to occupy.

Not long ago, the Kurds were seen as among the biggest winners in Syria’s war, having gone from being a sidelined minority to the strongest component in a military force that controlled more than a quarter of Syria’s territory, thanks to their fierce fighting and their partnership with the United States.

As their military victories against ISIS mounted, they established local councils to govern and instituted Kurdish education in their communities’ schools.

Those projects are now at risk.

A decline in American support could leave them vulnerable to attacks by ISIS or by others who resent their rise. They have few other international allies, which analysts suspect could push them to seek an accommodation with Mr. al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

But even that may not protect them from Turkey, which has sent its forces into other parts of Syria further west, displacing Kurds and establishing zones where it has provided services and resettled refugees. It says it will do the same in areas now controlled by the S.D.F.

It remains unclear how the S.D.F. would respond to a Turkish incursion, but on Monday it called on the inhabitants of northeastern Syria to “stand with our legitimate forces to defend our homeland from the Turkish aggression.”

While the S.D.F. and United States officials have sought to play down the group’s ties to the P.K.K., many of its leaders and fighters have roots in the movement and could deploy its guerrilla tactics against Turkey if it entered Syria.

“So far they have been incredibly reasonable and have shown restraint,” said Ms. Khalifa, the Syria analyst. “But I don’t know how long that is going to last.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS

Westlake Legal Group 07syria-facebookJumbo U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS United States International Relations United States Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria McGurk, Brett H Mazlum Kobani Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Free Syrian Army Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Before dawn on Monday, at a military base in northeastern Syria, an American general delivered the bad news to his Syrian counterpart.

The United States was going to allow Turkish forces to move into the area, leaving the Kurdish-led Syrian militia vulnerable.

“You are leaving us alone,” the Syrian commander, Mazlum Kobani, responded angrily, and accused the United States of complicity in a looming Turkish attack, according to a United States official and another person with knowledge of the meeting.

President Trump’s surprise announcement that the United States would allow Turkey to take over a swath of northeastern Syria, at the expense of the militia that fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State, could alter the course of the country’s eight-year civil war.

In addition to betraying the militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, analysts said, the move could empower Turkey, extending its control over another part of northern Syria. It could also create a void in the region that could benefit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

And it would likely further limit the United States’ influence over the conflict.

“The United States just threw away the last leverage it had,” said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst with the International Crisis Group. Even if the United States kept its roughly 1,000 troops in Syria, Mr. Trump’s announcement late Sunday night made it clear to the war’s other combatants that he wants out.

“They are just waiting for the tweet,” she said.

After the jihadists of the Islamic State seized control of nearly a third of northeastern Syria, the United States partnered with a Syrian Kurdish militia in 2015 to fight them. Other groups also joined to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., which claimed control over the land it liberated from ISIS.

Since then, a small contingent of American troops, now numbering about 1,000, have backed the S.D.F. in holding the area.

After the decline of ISIS, the Trump administration came to see the S.D.F. as the best means to check the influence of Iran and Russia, prevent a jihadist resurgence, and maintain a stake in eventual peace talks.

But if the S.D.F.’s hold on northeastern Syria weakens, it could make it easier for Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to reclaim the territory. An open conflict with Turkey could siphon Kurdish fighters to the front lines, allowing ISIS remnants to reassert themselves elsewhere.

Turkey has always objected to the S.D.F. presence on its border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw the Kurdish fighters who form the group’s backbone as an extension of the P.K.K., the Kurdish guerrilla movement that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

He worried that greater Kurdish autonomy in Syria was a security threat and demanded a corridor, a so-called safe zone, up to 20 miles deep and hundreds of miles long, to keep Kurdish forces at bay.

For months, American diplomats had been working to ward off Turkish threats to send troops across the border, most recently carrying out joint security measures in a small safe zone with the United States.

But Mr. Erdogan was not satisfied, and he spoke by phone with President Trump on Sunday. Shortly afterward, the White House announced that the Turkish military would enter Syria and that United States “will not support or be involved in the operation.”

Mr. Trump argued Monday that the United States’ partnership with the Kurds had essentially served its purpose, writing on Twitter that the Kurds had fought well “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

He dismissed their conflict with Turkey as of no concern to the United States. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The decision surprised many of the military and State Department officials who carry out Syria policy, and was met with opposition by Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Washington. Mr. Trump later tried to mollify his critics, saying that if Turkey “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate” its economy.

The S.D.F., which has said it lost most than 10,000 fighters battling the Islamic State alongside the United States, was bitter. Mr. Trump’s decision, Mustafa Bali, an S.D.F. spokesman, wrote on Twitter, “is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S. built during the fight against ISIS.”

He and other Kurds also shared a video on Twitter of Mr. Trump lauding the Kurds as military partners during a news conference at the United Nations last year.

“We do get along great with the Kurds. We are trying to help them a lot,” Mr. Trump said in the video, adding that many of them had “died for us.”

“I can tell you that I don’t forget, these are great people,” he said.

On Monday, American forces pulled back from two observation posts in Syria, near the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain near the Turkish border.

Turkish media and military analysts have widely reported that Turkey will soon enter the area between the towns. Although Mr. Erdogan wants a buffer zone running the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, he said this summer that he would accept a smaller area to start with and proceed step by step.

A different group of Syrian fighters, known as the Free Syrian Army, are preparing to deploy with Turkish troops. They have said the plan was to enter the two border towns, but that the Turkish-backed forces would not enter towns where Americans are based.

But the Turkish incursion raises questions about the future of the entire area under S.D.F. control, which extends for hundreds of miles along the Turkish border and deep into Syrian territory on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. It includes major cities such as Raqqa, once Islamic State’s de facto capital, some of Syria’s richest agricultural land and a number of oil fields.

The S.D.F. warned in a statement on Monday that a Turkish military incursion could force it to divert its forces from areas where ISIS remains a threat in the south to defend itself against the Turks in the north. Abandoning anti-ISIS operations would “destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the last years,” the statement said.

A Kurdish redeployment would put other American objectives at risk, too.

“Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,” Brett McGurk, a former presidential envoy who pushed for the partnership with the S.D.F. wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

An immediate concern are the Kurdish-run prisons in the area holding captured ISIS fighters and at least two large camps for their families. One of the camps, Al Hol, houses tens of thousands of people including extremists whom the S.D.F. and aid organizations have accused of seeking to re-establish ISIS rule.

The White House statement said that Turkey would assume responsibility for “all the ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” but two United States officials said there had been no discussion with Turkey or the Kurds about a possible handover. The camps and prisons are far from the area Turkey is expected to occupy.

Not long ago, the Kurds were seen as among the biggest winners in Syria’s war, having gone from being a sidelined minority to the strongest component in a military force that controlled more than a quarter of Syria’s territory, thanks to their fierce fighting and their partnership with the United States.

As their military victories against ISIS mounted, they established local councils to govern and instituted Kurdish education in their communities’ schools.

Those projects are now at risk.

A decline in American support could leave them vulnerable to attacks by ISIS or by others who resent their rise. They have few other international allies, which analysts suspect could push them to seek an accommodation with Mr. al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

But even that may not protect them from Turkey, which has sent its forces into other parts of Syria further west, displacing Kurds and establishing zones where it has provided services and resettled refugees. It says it will do the same in areas now controlled by the S.D.F.

It remains unclear how the S.D.F. would respond to a Turkish incursion, but on Monday it called on the inhabitants of northeastern Syria to “stand with our legitimate forces to defend our homeland from the Turkish aggression.”

While the S.D.F. and United States officials have sought to play down the group’s ties to the P.K.K., many of its leaders and fighters have roots in the movement and could deploy its guerrilla tactics against Turkey if it entered Syria.

“So far they have been incredibly reasonable and have shown restraint,” said Ms. Khalifa, the Syria analyst. “But I don’t know how long that is going to last.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump’s Green Light to Turkey Raises Fears About ISIS Detainees

Westlake Legal Group merlin_151067130_e3596fba-c47b-4ad2-a3ba-240d876c34ba-facebookJumbo Trump’s Green Light to Turkey Raises Fears About ISIS Detainees United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Great Britain Germany France Europe Detainees Defense and Military Forces Belgium Assad, Bashar al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s sudden blessing of a Turkish military operation in northern Syria and his announcement of an American troop withdrawal from that region raised questions about the fate of thousands of Islamic State detainees that the Turks’ targets, American-backed Syrian Kurds, have been holding in makeshift wartime prisons.

Mr. Trump insisted that Turkey must assume responsibility for the captured ISIS fighters and their families. But it is far from clear what will happen to them, and a host of issues arose from Mr. Trump’s abrupt, if still murky, change in policy.

The situation is deeply complicated. For now, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces control northern Syria. They have been the primary American ally inside Syria in the war against the Islamic State, carrying out the brunt of the ground-level fighting with support from American airstrikes and weapons. They operate prisons where ISIS members are detained.

The Kurds are menaced from the north by Turkey, which has been fighting separatist Kurds inside its borders for years and considers the Syrian Kurds to be terrorists, too. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia, controls the southern part of the country and wants to eventually retake it all, raising the possibility of a deal with the Kurds.

The presence of American troops has helped maintain a fragile peace. But the White House said that Mr. Trump has given a green light for a Turkish military operation into northern Syria, and Mr. Trump said on Twitter that it was time to pull out. “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,” he said, “and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.’”

The Syrian Democratic Forces operate an archipelago of ad hoc wartime detention sites for captive ISIS fighters, ranging from former schoolhouses in towns like Ainissa and Kobane to a former Syrian government prison at Hasaka.

The prisons hold about 11,000 men, of whom about 9,000 are locals — Syrians or Iraqis — and about 2,000 come from some 50 other nations whose home governments have been reluctant to repatriate them. They also operate camps for families displaced by the conflict that hold tens of thousands of people, many of them non-Syrian wives and children of Islamic State fighters.

“If Turkey attacks these Kurdish soldiers, there is a grave risk that the ISIS fighters they guard will escape and return to the battlefield,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers who recently visited the Middle East said in a joint statement on Monday.

This is one of many unknowns. An American-brokered plan in the works would create a demilitarized “safe zone” a few miles deep along a roughly 78-mile portion of the Syrian-Turkish border to reassure Turkey and forestall any military conflict with the Kurds. That would not affect the Kurds’ ability to keep running the prisons.

But Mr. Erdogan, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last month, has instead pushed for a much longer and deeper zone. A broader invasion could reach the prisons, and it would set off an armed conflict that could prompt the Kurds to pull guards from prisons so they could instead join the fight.

The “worst-case scenario” is that the Kurds are so frustrated and angered by the United States’ action that “they decide to release wholesale some of the detainees,” said Christopher P. Costa, a former senior director for counterterrorism on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council who now heads the International Spy Museum.

It was not clear. The White House said Turkey would “now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.” But Turkey has given no public sign that it has agreed to take over that headache.

For now at least, the Kurds have told American officials that they will continue to hold the ISIS detainees. But a senior State Department official acknowledged that the best-trained guards could be pulled away in the event of a conflict with Turkey, calling it a “big concern” that some ISIS fighters could go free.

“It’s hard to imagine Turkey has the capacity to handle securely and appropriately the detainees long held by the Syrian Kurds — and that’s if Turkey even genuinely intends to try,” said Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council in the Obama administration.

The Kurds have implored countries around the world to take back their citizens who fought for the Islamic State and were captured. But that idea is politically unpopular in many European countries. Mr. Trump is correct that nations like Belgium, Britain, France and Germany have been largely content to let the Kurds bear the burden of detaining their citizens — particularly the male fighters.

Many European law enforcement officials fear that if they repatriate their extremist citizens, they would be unable to convict them or keep them locked up for a long time. European counterterrorism laws are weaker than those in the United States, where a conviction merely for joining a designated terrorist group can yield a 15-year prison sentence.

But Mr. Trump was wrong when he also said that the captured ISIS fighters were “mostly from Europe.” While scores of the imprisoned men have European citizenship, far more come from other countries that are part of the Muslim world — like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, to say nothing of the thousands of local Syrians and Iraqis.

Unlike many other countries, the United States has taken its citizens off the Kurds’ hands. But there are two British detainees still in Kurdish custody whom the United States has a particular interest in keeping locked up: El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey.

They are two of the so-called Beatles, a four-member cell of British ISIS members who tortured and murdered Western hostages, including James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014 for an ISIS propaganda video. Another member of the cell, who was later killed in a drone strike, is believed to have killed Mr. Foley.

The Justice Department intends to eventually bring them to the Eastern District of Virginia for trial, but a court fight in Britain has delayed that transfer. The lawsuit is over whether the British government may share evidence with the United States without an assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

“It’s a good day for the Beatles,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is normally a staunch Trump ally but who denounced the president’s move as “complete chaos” and “a disaster.” In a phone interview, Mr. Graham vowed to lead a congressional vote to try to impose sanctions on Turkey if it invades northern Syria, despite Mr. Trump’s acquiescence.

Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.

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Trump Throws Middle East Policy Into Turmoil Over Syria

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-prexy-01-facebookJumbo Trump Throws Middle East Policy Into Turmoil Over Syria United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces State Department Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Graham, Lindsey Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump threw Middle East policy into turmoil with a series of conflicting signals on Monday as his vow to withdraw American forces from the region touched off an uprising among congressional Republicans and protests by America’s allies.

Defending his decision to clear the way for a Turkish military operation against America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, Mr. Trump said it was “time for us to get out” and let others “figure the situation out.” But after Republican allies condemned the move, he pivoted sharply and said he would restrain Turkey.

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” the president wrote on Twitter, without explaining what exactly he would consider off limits.

Even after Mr. Trump walked back his decision, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, warned him against “a precipitous withdrawal” that would benefit Russia, Iran, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the Islamic State. Mr. McConnell sharply urged the president to “exercise American leadership.”

A Defense Department official said that the president’s threat to destroy the Turkish economy should remove any ambiguity about whether Mr. Trump had endorsed a Turkish attack on the Kurds. “The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the president — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “The U.S. armed forces will not support, or be involved in any operation.”

The herky-jerky policy pronouncements kept supporters, foreign leaders, military officers and his own aides off balance as they tried to interpret Mr. Trump’s meaning and anticipate its consequences. The president has long agitated to get the United States out of what he considers fruitless overseas wars only to be pulled back to some extent by the national security establishment and congressional allies.

In this case, Mr. Trump seemed to be responding instinctively to a comment by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey near the end of a telephone call on Sunday. Rather than hold back Mr. Erdogan anymore, Mr. Trump promptly announced late that night that he would pull out American troops near the border who have served as a trip wire deterring Turkey from sending forces into Syria against Kurdish fighters allied with the United States.

By Monday morning, he was bombarded with complaints from both Republicans and Democrats, who charged that such a move would abandon some of United States’ most loyal and effective allies in the region, while emboldening some of America’s most threatening enemies.

[A look at who is affected by Trump’s shift in Syria.]

“If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet, I thought it was Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and usually one of the president’s most vocal backers, said on Fox News.

As with President Barack Obama’s decision to pull out American troops from Iraq in 2011, Mr. Graham said, Mr. Trump’s withdrawal would create a vacuum for remnants of the Islamic State, Mr. Assad and others to surge forward again.

“This is a big win for Iran and Assad, a big win for ISIS,” Mr. Graham said, using another term for the Islamic State. “I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey if they step one foot in northeastern Syria. That will sever my relationship with Turkey. I think most of the Congress feels that way.”

Mr. Graham said he would also introduce a nonbinding resolution asking Mr. Trump to reconsider his move, which he called “shortsighted and irresponsible.” The president’s assertion that the Islamic State has been defeated is “the biggest lie being told by the administration,” Mr. Graham added.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the House Republican leadership, called withdrawing United States forces from northern Syria “a catastrophic mistake.” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said it would be “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”

Nikki R. Haley, Mr. Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, joined the chorus. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend.”

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, shared a tweet from Mr. Graham and added his own thoughts. “The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal,” he wrote. “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”

Left virtually on his own, Mr. Trump found support on Capitol Hill from Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and one of the president’s staunchest defenders. Mr. Trump “once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy,” Mr. Paul tweeted.

Mr. Trump came to office promising to get the country out of overseas wars, contending that the military’s involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had largely been a waste of lives and money, with little to show for it.

A similarly sudden decision last winter to pull American troops out of Syria prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign, and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, accelerated his own planned departure in protest.

The Senate, led by Mr. McConnell, relayed its displeasure in January by voting overwhelmingly to rebuke Mr. Trump over his planned withdrawal of military forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump later walked back his decision in Syria to some extent, but has been frustrated not to be doing more to extricate the United States from entanglements in the region. His supporters said the latest move should therefore not be a surprise and the Kurds had fair warning.

The Kurdish forces in the area, part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., have been the most reliable American ally in the region for years, a critical element in recapturing territory once controlled by the Islamic State. But Turkey has long considered the Kurdish fighters to be terrorists and has lobbied the United States to abandon support for them.

“The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Monday. “We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight.” Now, he said, it is time to leave.

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Mr. Trump wrote. “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out.”

He offered little sympathy for the fate of America’s Kurdish allies: “The Kurds fought with us,” he wrote, “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

Mr. Trump has been particularly irritated that the United States continues to pay to detain thousands of Islamic State fighters. For months, he has tried to pressure European states and others to take those fighters who originated from there, only to run into strong resistance.

“Europe did not want them back, they said you keep them USA!” Mr. Trump wrote. “I said ‘NO, we did you a great favor and now you want us to hold them in U.S. prisons at tremendous cost. They are yours for trials.’ They again said ‘NO,’ thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the ‘sucker,’ on NATO, on Trade, on everything.”

But if Turkey moves against the Kurds, the S.D.F. could abandon camps to fight the Turks, potentially allowing some 10,000 captured Islamic State fighters, including 2,000 foreigners, to escape. United States military officers were trying to reassure the S.D.F. in hopes of avoiding such a scenario.

The United States has suspended longstanding efforts to create a safe zone in Syria near the Turkish border that would have kept Turkish forces and Syrian fighters at a distance from each other. But one State Department official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity under administration ground rules said that the United States was now controlling the air space over northeast Syria in part to prevent Turkish aggression.

The prospect that an American withdrawal would lead to a Turkish incursion alarmed European allies. The French and Germans issued statements expressing deep concern. A State Department official said the international reaction to a possible Turkish operation had been “devastating” and acknowledged it would destabilize the region.

For now at least, the Syrian Defense Forces leadership has told American officials that it will continue to detain the Islamic State fighters and their families in makeshift camps in northern Syria. But a State Department official acknowledged that the best-trained guards could be pulled away in the event of conflict with Turkey.

Most of the camps are farther south than where the Turkish forces have indicated they might go in Syria, outside the boundary of even the broadest safe zone that has been discussed. If the Kurdish guards flee advancing Turkish forces, the official said, then the administration expects the Turks to take over the detention centers.

American counterterrorism specialists said on Monday that transferring counterterrorism responsibilities to a Turkish military force that has proved ill -trained and ill equipped to conduct such operations in their own country would be disastrous and potentially reverse important victories by American troops and their Kurdish partners on the ground.

“It’s hard to imagine Turkey has the capacity to handle securely and appropriately the detainees long held by the Syrian Kurds — and that’s if Turkey even genuinely intends to try,” said Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council under Mr. Obama.

“The release or escape of such detainees,” he added, “would instantly energize ISIS’s efforts, already underway, to regroup and surge again.”

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