President Trump announced on Wednesday that he would be lifting sanctions placed on Turkey over their military offensive against U.S.-partnered Kurdish forces in Northern Syria, following the establishment of what he called a “permanent ceasefire” between the two groups. The president went on to declare that, despite receiving harsh criticism from officials on both sides of the political aisle over the abrupt removal of U.S. troops from the region, he considers the outcome to be an unequivocal victory for the United States.
“Countless lives are now being saved as a result of our negotiations with Turkey, an outcome reached without spilling one drop of American blood. No injuries, nobody shot, nobody killed,” Trump said during the press conference.
Earlier this month, Trump ordered U.S. Special Operations troops working alongside Kurdish forces against ISIS in Northern Syria to withdraw, seemingly creating an opportunity for Turkish troops to launch an offensive into the region against America’s former partners. U.S. troops left so quickly that Russian journalists have released video from inside abandoned U.S. bases showing personal items and equipment left behind. U.S. Air Force F-15s were even called in to bomb a U.S. installation after troops evacuated to prevent its ammunition stores from falling into Turkish hands.
The backlash from Democrats and Republicans was swift, as some faulted the president for turning his back on America’s Kurdish partners, others worried the withdrawal would result in a resurgence of ISIS, and still others fretted over how Trump’s decision appeared to benefit Russia and Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime most of all.
Trump has argued, however, that the conflict between the Kurds and Turkey is not America’s business, and as such, American forces shouldn’t be in harm’s way. His opposition has countered that it was a small American presence that prevented the outbreak of violence, however, with no American troops actually involved in the fighting. The Syrian Democratic Forces, who have also been fighting against Bashar al Assad’s Russian backed Syrian regime, ultimately turned to that very regime for help after American troops left the area.
“American forces defeated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate during the last two years,” Trump said at Wednesday’s White House press conference. “We thank the Syrian Democratic Forces for their sacrifices in this effort. Now, Turkey, Syria, and others in the region must work to ensure that ISIS does not regain any territory. It’s their neighborhood, they have to maintain it.”
The terms of the ceasefire call for Kurdish forces to evacuate an area about 20-miles wide near the Turkish border. Once all of the Syrian Democratic Forces have left this band of land, Trump said, Turkish forces will cease their offensive. According to Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, the terms of the ceasefire will only be honored if all SDF troops have completed their evacuation by Tuesday, otherwise the fighting will commence once again.
It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back. And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army,” Peskov said.