Editorial: The US president was warned about the consequences of betraying the Kurds. Now he can see them, and he still doesnt care

Total disaster, wrote the former US anti-Islamic State envoy, Brett McGurk, on Sunday, summarising the events of the past few days. Donald Trumps decision to abandon Americas Kurdish partners in north-east Syria and wave in Turkish forces was made so abruptly that parts of his own administration were taken by surprise. The grim consequences have arrived with equal speed. But they were widely predicted.

First came the humanitarian catastrophe: around 130,000 people are said to have fled Turkeys offensive already. Second came allegations from a human rights monitor that nine civilians, including a prominent Kurdish politician, have been executed by Turkish-backed militias. Third came reports that at least 750 people with suspected Islamic State links have fled the Ain Issa camp after Turkish shelling nearby.

Turkey draws no distinction between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the PKK, responsible for a four-decade domestic insurgency. Its stated aim is to secure a buffer zone, and resettle Syrian refugees there. But the US defence secretary, Mark Esper, now says that Turkey is likely to attack further south and west than planned; the estimated 1,000 US troops in Syria are accordingly being withdrawn from the countrys north to protect them. Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, Mr Trump crowed on Twitter, as though he had not triggered the conflicts outbreak.

Impeachment proceedings and the 2020 election have fuelled the US presidents longstanding desire to extract troops from the region. Asked about the potential threat posed by Isis-related prisoners, he shrugged: Theyre going to be escaping to Europe.

The SDF lost thousands of fighters in the ground war against Isis, and has taken charge of guarding prisoners since. Its grip on them was already fragile; the camps have never been a long-term solution. But faced with the difficulty of securing domestic convictions, and the risk of otherwise allowing dangerous individuals to walk free, Europe has hardly rushed to take responsibility for its nationals. Britains decision to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship was the most glaring example of its determination to treat people born and radicalised here as someone elses problem. Our duty to children who never chose to go to Syria and who have no one else to turn to including three British orphans reportedly found at the Ain Issa camp is particularly compelling. These issues can no longer be put off.

The former defence secretary, James Mattis, warns that the resurgence of Isis is a given. That threat is one more reason to press Turkey to halt this deadly offensive. So is the fact that Kurdish leaders are openly talking about cutting deals with Russia and Bashar al-Assads regime. The consequences of Mr Trumps fateful call to the Turkish president, only a week ago, are stacking up. Total disaster? This has only just begun.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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