Oct 7, 2019

Kurdish commander: Trump's Syria move puts victories over ISIS at risk

Mazloum Kobani. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Mazloum Kobani, the commander in chief of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Defense One on Monday that President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. military from northern Syria will "jeopardize all the achievements we have made with the coalition against ISIS."

"If this decision is implemented, of course a fight is going to erupt between us and the Turks in the northern border. If our partners and our allies don’t put big pressure on Turkey, it is only a matter of days. ... This will lead to a security vacuum that ISIS will take advantage of and which will be in the ISIS interest."

Why it matters: Trump's announcement has been met with bipartisan backlash in Washington, with many under the assumption that a U.S. exit will give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the green light to launch a military offensive against the mostly Kurdish SDF militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization.

  • The SDF bore the brunt of casualties during the war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, with more than 10,000 killed as the U.S. largely avoided a presence on the ground, per Defense One.
  • The SDF is also currently holding about 11,000 ISIS detainees. A Turkish incursion — which the SDF has claimed would result in "all-out war" — could pull their forces away from prison camps and the ongoing campaign against ISIS.

Go deeper: U.S. exit from Syria leaves civilians and Kurdish fighters at risk

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Trump on potential ISIS escapees: "They will be escaping to Europe"

President Trump responded on Wednesday to bipartisan condemnation of his decision to move U.S. troops out of northern Syria, telling reporters that Turkey and the Kurds have "hated each other for hundreds of years," and that if the ISIS prisoners that are currently being held by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces escape, "they will be escaping to Europe."

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019

Where it stands: Turkey's offensive into Syria

Turkish forces gather in Syria's al-Bab town on Oct. 11. Photo: Zein Al Rifai via Getty Images

Kurdish fighters in northern Syria said they prevented a second jailbreak attempt on Friday at a detention camp for ISIS family members, the New York Times reports, just 3 days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a military offensive in the region.

The latest: The Turkish military captured the center of the Syrian town Ras al-Ayn on Saturday — its "most significant gain" since the start of the offensive, AP reports. 28 Syrian civilians have been killed as of Saturday, per counts from a war monitor cited by AFP and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.N. estimates 100,000 Syrian residents have evacuated to the south.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 12, 2019

Trump on Syria's Kurds: "They're not angels"

President Trump addressed Turkey's invasion of Syria in the Oval Office on Wednesday, telling reporters that the Syrian Kurds — who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS — are "not angels," and that the Syrian government and Russia will protect them.

Go deeperArrowOct 16, 2019