US Syria withdrawal could spur Turkish invasion catastrophe

McGurk warns that Turkey could launch an incursion into northeast Syria similar to the one it carried out in January 2018 in Afrin

U.S. officials must accept that Turkey is not an effective partner in Syria and warn Ankara of serious consequences to U.S.-Turkey ties if Turkish forces launch a potentially catastrophic attack on Syrian Kurdish militia, said an analysis for U.S. magazine Foreign Affairs.

On December 19, U.S. President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that U.S. forces would be pulling out of Syria, doing precisely what Brett McGurk, then-U.S. envoy to the coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), had called reckless the week before.

A few days later, McGurk resigned. And though Trump later modified his order – it now looks like some 200 U.S. troops will stay in northeast Syria and another 200 in the country’s southeast – McGurk said the Syrian strategy that Trump dismantled offered the United States its only real chance to prevent an ISIS resurgence, check the ambitions of Iran and Turkey, and negotiate a favourable post-war settlement.

“With U.S. forces leaving Syria, many of these goals are no longer viable,” the former U.S. envoy wrote in Foreign Affairs’ May/June issue.

Washington now needs more modest goals, particularly with regards to Turkey. Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been a problematic partner from the outset of the anti-ISIS campaign begun under President Barack Obama’s administration, McGurk said.

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