Foreign Policy for America Statement on Situation on the Turkish-Syrian Border

October 9, 2019

Foreign Policy for America Statement on Situation on the Turkish-Syrian Border

Washington, DC – Since President Trump’s call with President Erdogan of Turkey Sunday night, the situation in northeastern Syria has quickly devolved into a humanitarian crisis. Turkey has begun launching airstrikes and artillery shelling in the region in an effort to flush out the Kurds who were, until just a few days ago, were leading the fight against ISIS in the region with American support.

Due to Trump’s reckless actions, the Kurdish militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, has repositioned resources to defend themselves against the Turks, all but abandoning our shared fight against the Islamic State in Syria.

While we believe in ending endless wars and bringing home American troops whenever possible, the way Trump went about this was shockingly cynical and irresponsible. By abandoning our Kurdish partners – apparently without consulting his advisors – Trump set in motion a chaotic series of events that will only benefit Russia, Iran, and ISIS.

We share the outrage of Members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans alike – President Trump’s disgraceful actions. The security of the United States is rooted in our credibility as an ally, and our alliance structures linking countries in Europe, Asia, and around the world. Abandoning a partner is not only inconsistent with our values as a country; it damages our national security. By leaving the field in Syria, the U.S. has not only abandoned one ally; we have abandoned all of our allies in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, including the UK and France, whom Trump did not even notify of his decision, much less confer with.

“Trump’s actions have invited a humanitarian catastrophe, and it’s frankly hard to understand how and why he came to that decision,” said Foreign Policy for America Executive Director Andrew Albertson. “What exactly was said on that phone call with Erdogan? Apart from the utter cruelty of the decision, Americans have a right to understand how the president arrived at a decision that seems to benefit primarily Russia and ISIS, who today are able to finally achieve their goals in northeastern Syria.”

“The President’s impulsive decision to withdraw U.S. support from the Syrian Democratic Forces and green light Turkish cross-border attacks against the Kurds is deeply damaging to U.S. national security interests,” said Michèle Flournoy, co-founder and Managing Partner of West Exec Advisors, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and FP4A advisor. “It risks diverting the SDF’s attention from containing and preventing the resurgence of ISIS, and it damages U.S credibility in the eyes of every ally and partner whom we ask to fight alongside us.”

“Trump’s craven and ill-advised retreat in Syria is a betrayal of our Syrian Kurdish partners, will instigate further fighting, embolden a still  not defeated ISIS, and reward our adversaries—Russia, Iran and the Assad Government,” said Ambassador Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and FP4A advisor. “It will also do considerable harm to America’s credibility as the global leader.”

“The U.S. abandonment of our loyal and brave Kurdish allies is an unforgivable, unwise, and un-American betrayal,” said Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, former Deputy National Security advisor and FP4A advisor. “For decades, the Kurds have been our most reliable ally in the fight against Saddam Hussein and ISIS. We could not have achieved U.S. objectives without them. Giving Turkey a green light to move into Syria for an inevitable slaughter will be remembered as a stain on American values. It damages our interests in the region, provides a boost to Iran, the Russians, the brutal Assad regime, and ISIS. The administration must demand a withdrawal from Syria, the imposition of sanctions, and a suspension of Turkey from NATO. The U.S. also now bears a responsibility to welcome at-risk Kurds into the U.S. Anyone involved in this disastrous decision should resign.”

“President Trump’s actions represent a betrayal of a critical ally,” said Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service program at Georgetown University, former Ambassador to Bulgaria, former Deputy Chief of Mission in Turkey, and FP4A advisor. “His decision will undermine our counter-terrorism campaign and further destabilize the region.  It also proves to our allies and adversaries around the world that he is an untrustworthy partner.”