Emmanuel Macron expresses 'deep regrets' on US Syria withdrawal

Saul Bowman
December 26, 2018

President Donald Trump said Monday that Saudi Arabia has committed to rebuilding Syria, which has been ravaged by years of civil war between the government, rebels, jihadis and other factions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in October that the US would deny aid to the central government in Damascus until a political process was launched to oust Assad, which Washington has accused of war crimes, and forces said to be under Iranian control were expelled. Ankara says the militia is a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey since the 1980s.

Meanwhile, the Journal reported that neither Navy Secretary Richard Spencer or Gen. Austin Miller, the top commander of all North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan, had received official orders from the White House or Pentagon on the drawdown.

"The execute order for Syria has been signed", a spokesperson for the USA military was quoted by AFP as saying late on December 23 without offering further details. USA forces have for years backed the Kurdish People's Protection Forces (YPG)-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIL.

Kurdish affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said the USA withdrawal, announced abruptly by Trump last week, would open the way "for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin".

Differences over Syria have always been a source of tension between the United States and Turkey.

Erdogan's office said in a statement he and Trump agreed to "ensure coordination between their countries' military, diplomatic, and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria".

Hammoud said there is "no alternative" except Turkish forces and allied Syrian fighters. Ankara accuses the fighters of having links to Kurdish insurgents operating in Turkey. He said the initial focus was on Manbij and areas just across the nearby Euphrates River.

"Iran's vision was to build a force of about 100,000 fighters with integrated land, sea, and intelligence capabilities and to build a line of outposts in the Golan Heights", Eizenkot said. But the extremists are largely confined to a remote desert enclave hundreds of miles (kilometres) to the southeast of Manbij.

Turkey vowed on Monday that the fight against Islamic State would not be slowed by the US withdrawal from Syria, where Ankara-backed rebels reinforced their positions around the potential flashpoint town of Manbij.

The spokesman for the Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council, Sharfan Darwish, said his forces "have taken measures to fend off any attack".

On the contrary, the analyst highlighted "the military's decision to arm and support the Kurdish secessionists in northern Syria actually threatened in making another USA enemy in the region out of Islamic Turkey, as if that was possible".

A Kurdish-led alliance, SDF - backed until now by Washington in the anti-IS campaign - controls nearly 30 percent of Syria.

"I urge Trump to go back on his decision inciting Erdogan against the Syrian people in general and the Kurdish people in specific", she said.

Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria triggered resignation of US Defence secretary James Mattis who said Trump needs someone in the position with "views better aligned" with those of the president.

"Never heard of him ... until yesterday", Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

Abandoned by the USA, the Kurdish militia are confronting the dilemma of whether to try to hold on to the 30 percent of Syria they wrested from IS.

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