Trump Endorses Turkish Military Operation in Syria, Shifting U.S. Policy

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey indicated last week that he planned to begin an incursion across the Syrian border.

Officials described a military...

Officials described a military and political tension as the American military is pulled between two important allies in the civil war in Syria. Turkey is a major NATO ally, but the Kurdish S.D.F. forces have been a partner in the fight against ISIS.

“We are not going to support the Turks and we are not going to support the S.D.F.,” the official said. “If they go to combat, we’re going to stay out of it.”

The White House statement and its ramifications come as the Islamic State is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at an allied-run tent camp, American military, counterterrorism and intelligence officers say.

Though Mr. Trump hailed a total defeat of the Islamic State this year — and asserted its territorial demise in Sunday night’s statement — defense officials in the region see things differently, acknowledging that what remains of the terrorist group is here to stay.

A recent inspector general’s report[1] warned that a drawdown ordered by Mr. Trump this year — from 2,000 American forces in Syria to less than half of that — has meant that the American military has had to cut back support for Syrian partner forces fighting ISIS. For now, American and international forces can only try to ensure that ISIS remains contained and away from urban areas, officials say.

Although there is little concern that the Islamic State will reclaim its former physical territory, a self-declared Islamic caliphate that was once the size of Britain and controlled the lives of up to 12 million people[2], the terrorist group has still mobilized as many as 18,000 remaining fighters in Iraq and Syria. These sleeper cells and strike teams have carried out sniper attacks, ambushes, kidnappings and assassinations against security forces and community leaders.

Over the past several months, ISIS has made inroads into a sprawling tent camp in northeast Syria, and there is no ready plan to deal with the 70,000 people there, including thousands of family members of ISIS fighters.


  1. ^ inspector general’s report (
  2. ^ 12 million people (

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