Donald Trump has created yet another self-imposed foreign policy crisis by prioritizing his own personal agenda over real diplomacy.
While the United States should withdraw troops from Syria, foreign policy decisions should not be made by tweet, and there must be a plan to replace troops with a humanitarian and diplomatic surge that works to build a sustainable peace, security for Syrian Kurds as well as other at-risk populations in Syria, and bring accountability for war crimes in Syria.
Congress must investigate whether Trump has demanded any favors from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in exchange for withdrawing U.S. troops from the Turkish-Syria border.
Although Trump’s intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria was made last December, his Twitter announcement of an imminent U.S. troop withdrawal from the Turkish-Syrian border – seemingly at the behest of Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – shows that he prefers making foreign policy by tweet and has no interest in a coherent policy making process or strategy in Syria.
While U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Syria, Trump is withdrawing troops from the Turkish-Syrian border in the worst possible way, with reportedly no warning to the Pentagon or State Department, or U.S. allies in the region, including the Syrian Defense Forces, Britain, and France.
Congress must demand answers about what Trump promised Erdogan and demanded from him in exchange during their phone call that preceded the White House’s announcement.
To create safety for Syrians, including Syrian Kurds, the United States and the rest of the international community must diplomatically resolve the Syrian civil war. Additionally, instead of green-lighting Turkey’s invasion of eastern Syria and fueling further civilian harm, Trump should have negotiated a deal with Turkey to prevent a violent incursion or made clear to the Syrian Democratic Forces last December that U.S. troops were leaving on a set timetable and the U.S. military would not indefinitely protect them.
Turning over Islamic State detainees to Turkey would likely only further compound horrendous detention conditions that experts warn have helped give rise to violent groups that perpetrate terrorism, like the self-described Islamic State, in the first place.
A Turkish assault on northeastern Syria would likely cause massive civilian harm and further displacement of the estimated 750,000 civilians as well as 115,000 internally displaced people in the border area, in addition to disrupting ongoing humanitarian operations in the area.
The Trump administration has no plan in place to deal with this chaos, nor to provide safe refuge for those fleeing a renewed conflict in eastern Syria thanks to Trump’s Muslim Ban, and anti-refugee and asylum policies. Congress must repeal the Muslim Ban through the NO BAN Act, increase annual refugee resettlement numbers by passing the GRACE Act, and demand the administration redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians who are at risk of deportation.