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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "withdrawal"

Bolton: We’re not withdrawing from Syria until Turkey guarantees YPG safety

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The withdrawal from Syria looks less imminent and more aspirational with every frequent-flier mile John Bolton picks up. Donald Trump’s national-security advisor met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel yesterday to discuss plans for the region, including a withdrawal from “northeast Syria,” as Bolton specified in a joint presser. Furthermore, the US wouldn’t withdraw any troops until Turkey provided security for US allies in the region — which is the equivalent of never:

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday outlined conditions for a U.S. troop departure from Syria that appeared to contradict President Trump’s insistence less than a month ago that the withdrawal would be immediate and without conditions.

Speaking during a visit to Israel, Bolton said that certain “objectives” must be achieved before a pullout could take place. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.” …

“It’s also very important that as we discuss with members of the coalition, [and] other countries that have an interest, like Israel and Turkey, that we expect that those who have fought with us in Syria . . . particularly the Kurds,” not be put in “jeopardy” by the withdrawal, said Bolton, who plans to travel Tuesday to Ankara.

Bolton has changed the terms of this decision dramatically since Trump announced it three weeks ago. At the time, Trump declared that we had beaten ISIS and there was no need for us to stick around, later softening the first part to say that Turkey and Syria could mop up the rest of ISIS. Over the past week, Bolton has acknowledged that ISIS is not yet vanquished and still has the capacity for “reviving” itself; US allies in the region still require our protection; and that the withdrawal is limited to “northeastern Syria.” The latter is undoubtedly a gesture to Netanyahu, who would have to ensure that a pullout of American forces and allies in southern Syria didn’t give Iran a foothold from which to launch attacks on Israel.

Trump himself seems to be backpedaling a bit too, at least on the timeline:

Trump also commented Sunday on the timing of the withdrawal. “I never said we’d be doing it that quickly,” the president said from the White House. “We won’t be finally pulled out, until ISIS is gone.”

The remark came in contrast to the president’s statement from Dec. 19., when he said the withdrawal would happen quickly and that the U.S. had defeated ISIS. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now,” Trump said at the time. “We won.”

Everyone’s slowing their roll now, and with Bolton heading to Ankara, that roll will come to a complete stop. Recep Tayyip Ergodan considers the YPG to be a part of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that both Turkey and the US consider to be a terrorist organization. The US position on the YPG became considerably more nuanced once it became clear that they were the only group that could lead urban assaults on ISIS, and our alliance brought howls of protest from Ankara all along.

If the US plans on making a withdrawal conditional on Turkish guarantees of safety for the YPG in Syria, one of two things will happen. Either we will never withdraw from “northeastern Syria,” or we will stand by and watch our anti-ISIS allies get massacred as Turkey reneges on any security pledge they make. Want to guess which way our Kurdish allies are betting?

Update: Jeff Dunetz has a good analysis about Bolton’s trip and policies in a different context.

The post Bolton: We’re not withdrawing from Syria until Turkey guarantees YPG safety appeared first on Hot Air.

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NBC: Trump admin retreating on Syria withdrawal?

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Somewhere, Lindsey Graham draws a sigh of relief. John Bolton has set out on a trip to explain Donald Trump’s plans on Syria to our allies, who were caught flat-footed by his announcement of withdrawing completely from the ISIS battleground. A source within the administration tells NBC News that Bolton will outline a plan with a much longer timetable for withdrawal — and perhaps an indefinite timetable for part of Syria:

Some U.S. troops could remain in southern Syria for an undetermined amount of time even as American forces withdraw in coming months from the northern part of the country, a senior administration official said Friday.

President Donald Trump announced last month that he was withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria immediately but has since softened the timing to say the drawdown will happen more slowly.

The U.S. has no timeline for Trump’s order of a complete troop withdrawal but believes the remaining pockets of ISIS in Syria can be eliminated in a matter of weeks, said the senior administration official, who was traveling with national security adviser John Bolton on a trip aimed at clarifying the new policy for America’s allies.

That’s a bit different than last night’s reporting on Bolton’s trip. The Washington Post focused more on the effort to get out of Turkey’s way and the coordination necessary to give Ankara the lead on anti-ISIS fighting. The purpose of meeting with other Arab leaders was to undo the impression that we’re bailing on the Middle East, according to Karen DeYoung:

Turkey wants the United States to disarm Syrian Kurdish forces it has trained and supplied for the fight against the Islamic State, and to provide air and logistical support for Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition forces who plan to pick up the anti-militant battle after a U.S. withdrawal.

The list of Turkey’s “concerns and expectations” will be conveyed next week to White House national security adviser John Bolton when he visits Ankara to explain the still-unspecified U.S. plan for a withdrawal from Syria, according to Turkish officials.

Bolton’s trip comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also heading to the region to try to persuade Arab partners and allies that “the United States is not leaving the Middle East. Despite reports to the contrary and false narratives surrounding the Syria decision, we are not going anywhere,” a senior administration official said Friday in a briefing for reporters.

What “false narratives” were “surrounding the Syria decision”? Trump made his policy crystal clear. Not only did he declare a complete withdrawal from Syria — a decision that led to James Mattis’ resignation — Trump repeatedly defended a complete withdrawal on Twitter. Trump even made a point of taking a victory lap on complete withdrawal when meeting with troops in Iraq less than two weeks ago. Pompeo might want to rewrite history in order to give Trump some room for rethinking this move, but there was precious little room for a “false narrative” of complete and immediate withdrawal.

These remarks and Bolton’s trip suggest that Trump may well be rethinking the decision. He might be able to afford to let Turkey take on ISIS, albeit on a much longer timetable than Trump first posed, but leaving southern Syria in the hands of Iran is asking for a regional war. Israel has already conducted airstrikes in Syria to signal that it won’t let Bashar al-Assad off the hook for giving the mullahs in Tehran a back door to attack them. If the US leaves a vacuum in southern Syria, Iran will try to fill it — and Israel will unleash waves of attacks to prevent that from happening. That could very well cause an extremely large boom in the region, one which will eventually entangle the US and Russia and maybe even China.

That’s one good reason to stick around for a while and have an active hand in shaping the post-ISIS outcome in Syria. Besides, the US will have to have some presence in and about Syria if Bolton’s serious about this threat:

“There is absolutely no change in the U.S. position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we’ve done twice before,” Bolton told reporters on his plane shortly before landing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“So the regime, the Assad regime, should be under no illusions on that question,” said Bolton, who is on a four-day trip to Israel and Turkey. …

If chemical weapons were to be used, “a lot of options would be on the table … if they don’t heed the lessons of those two strikes the next one will be more telling,” Bolton said.

Thus far the Trump administration has shown it’s not bluffing on reprisals for violations of chemical-weapons bans, but Assad might be forgiven for any confusion on that point. Bolton’s warning sounds a lot different than Trump’s tweet two weeks ago while defending a total withdrawal:

It seems that Bolton thinks we’ll keep that role as “policeman of the Middle East” after all. And perhaps we won’t be exiting Syria as fast or as completely as Trump first declared, either.

The post NBC: Trump admin retreating on Syria withdrawal? appeared first on Hot Air.

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