The United States military withdrawal from Syria has left its NATO ally, Turkey, in the spotlight to crush the remaining terrorism in the conflict-ridden country. In this piece, KINGSLEY OPURUM tries to X-ray the military might of Turkey to exterminate the remaining terror groups in war-torn Syria.
After making a shocking announcement about United States military pull out from war-torn Syria on 19th December, 2018, President Donald Trump said that Turkey would finish off the Islamic State in Syria as he praised the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “a man who can do it”.
It was reported that Trump made his decision to withdraw US troops from the region following the departure of his Defence Secretary, James Mattis. In a stinging resignation letter, Mattis warned that America must “show respect” to its allies.
Trump had defended his position, tweeting: “President Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria….and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right ‘next door.’ Our troops are coming home!”
Pundits have hailed Trump’s decision as a bold step in the right direction; believing that US military withdrawal will enable Turkey to completely eliminate any form of terror group in Syria. They believe that Ankara has the military muscle to decimate militant groups in the crisis-ridden country.
The US military confirmed that the order to withdraw American soldiers from Syria had been signed after Trump held talks with his Turkish counterpart to negotiate the terms of the pullout.
The US currently has around 2,000 troops in the civil war-racked country, where they have been deployed to assist in a multinational fight against the Islamic State (Isil) jihadist group.
Media reports have it that Trump and Erdogan spoke by telephone last year and “agreed to ensure coordination between their countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum, which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Trump tweeted that he and Erdogan “discussed (Isil), our mutual involvement in Syria, and the slow and highly coordinated pullout of US troops from the area.”
In the same vein, Trump’s advisers reportedly persuaded the president to withdraw the troops more slowly than he would like in order not to jeopardise their safety.
Hundreds of Isil fighters are thought to remain in Syria, but Trump believes that Ankara has the military might to stamp out the remaining terror groups in a short period.
Also, Trump tweeted that President Erdogan had assured him that any remaining Isil fighter would be eliminated.
However, US politicians – including those from Trump’s own Republican Party – and international allies, fear that the withdrawal is premature and would further destabilise the already devastated region.
Meanwhile, Turkey vowed that the fight against the Islamic State would not be slowed down by the US withdrawal from Syria.
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dismissed concerns that the withdrawal, ordered by US President, Donald Trump, would allow the Islamic State to regain territory.
“As part of the global coalition to defeat ISIS, we would like to express again that we will not allow such a thing to happen on Syrian soil, Iraqi soil or Turkish soil,” Kalin said at a news conference
He added that there would be no disruption or slowdown of the fight against the militant group.
In September 2018, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarised zone in the Idlib region, the last major rebel stronghold.
Differences over Syria have long been a source of tension between the United States and Turkey. Washington has backed the YPG in the fight against Islamic State, but Ankara sees the militia as a terrorist organisation.
But in June 2018, Ankara and Washington reached an agreement that would see the YPG ousted from the town, but Turkey has repeatedly blamed the United States for what it said has been a delay in that deal.
Erdogan said last year that Turkish forces would enter the town unless the United States removed the Kurdish fighters.
Also, Turkey said Kurdish militants, east of the Euphrates in Syria, “will be buried in their ditches when the time comes,” after US President began what will be a total withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
President Erdogan said that Turkey may start a new military operation in Syria at any moment.
However, the Pentagon had said that unilateral military action by any party in northeast Syria, where US forces operate, would be unacceptable. Turkey has already intervened to sweep YPG and Islamic State fighters from territory, west of the Euphrates, over the past two years. It has not gone east of the river, partly to avoid direct confrontation with US forces.