Monday January 21, 2019
Home Lead Story The United St...

The United States Of America Starts Pulling Out Troops From Syria

Ankara is banking on shared regional interests and the personal chemistry of Trump and Erdogan to prevent a new crisis.

0
//
USA, U.S., Syria
A line of US military vehicles drives through a checkpoint of the Internal Security Forces in Manbij as they head to their base on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

The U.S.-led coalition in Syria is beginning to remove troops from Syria.

The coalition “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” said Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S.-coalition fighting the Islamic State group. “Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements.”

Earlier this week, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s calls for the protection of the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as a pre-condition to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, causing the president to refuse to meet with the U.S. official.

The YPG is a crucial ally in Washington’s war against Islamic State but is considered by Ankara as a terrorist group linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

Syria, U.S.
A former farmer at a primitive refinery makes crude oil into diesel and other products in Rmeilan, Hassakeh province, Syria, April 6, 2018. VOA

Erdogan also warned that preparations were complete for a military operation against the YPG. “We will very soon mobilize to eliminate the terrorist organization in Syria,” he said.“If there are other terrorists who would attempt to intervene in our intervention then it is our duty to eliminate them as well,” Erdogan added. Turkish forces have been massing for weeks along the Syrian border.

Observers said the threat of a Turkish operation against the YPG in northeastern Syria, where around 2,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed, was the reason for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria. Once Trump announced his intention, Erdogan said Turkey would delay any operation until all U.S. forces left.

Ankara’s anger over preconditions announced by Bolton before any U.S. withdrawal, including security guarantees for the Kurdish militia, may have brought forward the timing of a strike against the YPG.

Last year, the Turkish currency collapsed after Trump hit Ankara with sanctions over the detention in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has since been released. Although the sanctions lasted only a few weeks, Turkey’s economy is now facing a recession. The lira fell sharply Tuesday on fears of renewed U.S.-Turkish tensions.

Syria, U.S.
Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, Nov. 4, 2018. VOA

Turkish media are also reporting of divisions within Turkey’s military over the launching of a military operation into Syria in winter and before the full withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen predicts Erdogan will now look to Trump to resolve the current tensions. “We have to wait to see what Mr. Erdogan has to say with Mr. Trump,” said Selcen, “because he (Erdogan) himself managed to persuade Mr. Trump that the United States will be leaving Syria. We have to wait to see what Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Trump have to say in the coming weeks.”

Also Read: U.S’s SDF Arrests Five IS Agents, Five More Deported From Syria

Turkish media are already blaming Bolton for the latest tensions, accusing him of going “rogue.” Washington is also facing criticism in Turkey for sending conflicting messages on its Syria policy.

Analysts, however, suggest Ankara is banking on shared regional interests and the personal chemistry of Trump and Erdogan to prevent a new crisis. (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. Envoy Advances Peace Talk Efforts In Afghanistan

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process.

0
USA, afghanistan, taliban, peace talks, pakistan
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Zalmay Khalilzad, the man responsible for overseeing America’s negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, arrived Tuesday night in Kabul, after making stops in India, the United Arab Emirates, and China. He is expected to visit Islamabad next.

His outreach to regional players continues despite what seems like a setback in talks with the Taliban.

“The [dialogue] process has halted for now so the venue and the date for a future meeting are not known,” a senior Taliban official who is privy to the developments confirmed to VOA earlier this week when asked whether their peace talks with the U.S. were still on track.

Talks scheduled with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia earlier this month were called off by the insurgent group after it came under pressure by the host government to meet with representatives of the current Afghan government.

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, May 2, 2015, site of several past negotioations with the Taliban. VOA

The insurgent group pushed to change the venue to Doha, Qatar, but later canceled those talks as well over disagreements on the agenda.

The last significant round of talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban was held in December in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the host government also took part in that round.

The Afghan government sent a delegation to Abu Dhabi in hopes of joining the talks, but the Taliban refused to meet them.

The group so far has resisted pressure from multiple actors, including the U.S., to meet with the Kabul administration, calling it a “puppet” regime unable to deliver on their demands.

The U.S. goal, according to a statement issued by its embassy in Kabul, is to “encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement.”

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, right in backgroud, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, left in background, meet in Kabul, Nov.10, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad will meet with President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah, and political leaders to “discuss the next steps in U.S. efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the statement added.

 

A feud among Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar also seems to be damaging the process, say various media reports. According to the Reuters news agency, Saudi and UAE diplomats refused to take part in any meeting held in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an unofficial political office. The two countries severed ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing the Gulf state of funding militants – a charge Doha denies.

In December, it was reported that President Donald Trump told the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American military personnel from Afghanistan, which would reduce the U.S. presence in the country by half.

Also Read: Peace Talks With The U.S. Stalled: Taliban

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process. Since then, several rounds of negotiations between the two have been held, albeit without the Kabul administration.

Meanwhile, security in Afghanistan continues to present a major challenge. An attack in Kabul Monday killed several people and wounded dozens of others. (VOA)