Brett McGurk, former presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, slammed President Trump on Monday after the U.S. announced it was withdrawing troops from the Syrian-Turkish border region.
The pullback comes in advance of a planned Turkish invasion of the area. Turkey asserts it wants to create a “safe zone” inside Syria to resettle 3.6 million refugees from the Syrian civil war who are currently residing in Turkey, while Kurdish forces in northern Syria warn that Turkey wants to weaken their hold on the region by flooding the region with Sunni Arab Muslims.
“Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief,” McGurk wrote on Twitter. “He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”
McGurk had resigned from his post in December 2018 after Trump announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from other parts of Syria. The withdrawal came after Trump declared ISIS defeated.
Much of the fighting with ISIS was carried out by the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, who have expressed alarm at a U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria, as it leaves them open to attack from Turkey. Turkey considers the SDF a terrorist organization, as the latter has links to Kurdish militants hostile to Turkey.
McGurk warned that a withdrawal from northern Syria would leave a detainee camp whose prisoners include “the nucleus for a resurgent ISIS” to be managed by Turkey, which, he wrote, has no interest in maintaining the camp.
Turkey has neither the intent, desire, nor capacity to manage 60k detainees in al Hol camp, which State and DoD IGs warn is the nucleus for a resurgent ISIS. Believing otherwise is a reckless gamble with our national security. Background here👇 https://t.co/7e20rUa4Sk
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) October 7, 2019
Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) also protested the withdrawal, writing on Twitter that the decision signaled that “America is an unreliable ally and it’s just a matter of time before China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea act out in dangerous ways.” Graham also criticized the 2018 pullback of U.S. troops, saying at the time that it abandoned the Kurds after the latter had “fought so bravely against ISIS.”