, 24 tweets, 7 min read
My Authors
Read all threads
Turkish forces have begun moving into Syria, with a first target the town of Tal Abyad. Erdogan spoke with Putin before moving forces into areas that until three days ago enjoyed a small, successful US observer force. Some background on this area below -
Tal Abyad, a Syrian border town, was the main supply route for ISIS from 6/14-6/15 when weapons, explosives, and fighters flowed freely from Turkey to Raqqa and into Iraq. Turkey refused repeated and detailed requests to seal its side of the border with US help and assistance.
Turkey also during this period refused to permit the US military to fly from Incirlik airbase to strike ISIS positions even as ISIS fighters poured into Syria from Turkey. GEN Allen and I spent much of that year in Ankara as ISIS threats to NATO allies in Europe grew urgent.
In June 2015, after no action from Turkey and the border still wide open, we enabled SDF fighters to clear Tal Abyad. After the battle, Turkey sealed the border (from the SDF not ISIS) and built a wall. Reports this morning are that Turkey removed its own wall to move its forces.
Despite that experience, the US continued to focus on Turkey as an ally with detailed plans for cooperation to clear ISIS from other areas. After the loss of Tal Abyad, ISIS organized its foreign fighters in the town of Manbij and continued planning major attacks in Europe.
For more than six months, we worked with Turkey and opposition groups it approved to move from its areas west-to-east to seize Manbij. These fighters received more support than the SDF — but they could not advance & some gave US-provided equipment to al Qaeda groups in NW Syria.
The threat warnings proved true in Nov 2016 when an ISIS combat team traveled from Manbij through Turkey and into Paris, killing 131 people. This followed the ISIS suicide bombings at Brussels airport, also by a team that traveled from Syria through Turkey.
After the Paris attacks and with threats growing, we enabled the SDF over Turkey’s objection to seize Manbij in a costly multi-month battle. Since then, there were no further directed attacks into Europe. It also led to an information haul enabling us to decimate ISIS leadership.
It is doubtful that Trump knows any of this history as he touts the success of defeating the caliphate (which could not have happened absent the Tal Abyad and Manbij operations) and this week ordered US forces to suddenly abandon posts near Tal Abyad.
The consequences of the coming attack will be serious. Turkey and Russia appear now to be coordinating to maximize pressure on the SDF zone, where a small number of US forces are located. ISIS is surely preparing to reconstitute in the maelstrom.
Trump threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy should undefined events to his disliking take place AFTER its attack into Syria. If he chose to make such a serious threat, why not make it on condition that no attack take place at all? That’s the whole point.
After all, US and Turkish forces were working cooperatively to maintain stability in this very area as our military reported on the day Trump spoke with Erdogan. Why did Trump choose to abandon this policy altogether and capitulate on a whim and a call?
The United States has and was bending over backwards to address all security concerns for Turkey. There was no imminent threat. This has nothing to do with Turkey’s security. It’s part of a plan to extend Turkey’s border 30km into Syria. Erdogan has been transparent about this.
The coming weeks will see a slow-moving train-wreck as US policy remains divorced from any achievable objective (get Iran out?) under a president that wants out altogether. The belief that we can now contain Turkey’s ambition into one small area is delusional. Cat’s out of bag.
So is the naïve view that green lighting a Turkish attack into Syria will somehow repair the frayed relationship with Turkey. I’ve seen this argument in recent days. But it was TURKISH policies not U.S. policies that turned this relationship south long ago.
This oped from my former Bush ‘43 NSC colleague @doranimated cites recent opinion polls showing that 70-80 percent of Turks view the U.S. unfavorably. He attributes this largely to U.S. policies in Syria. wsj.com/articles/turke…
The increasing strain in US-TR relations long predates anything having to do with Syria. Here’s a Pew poll from 2013 (well before we had ever met the Syrian Kurdish YPG) with the SAME polling figures.
Pew polls clearly demonstrate that the sharply negative trend dates to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Here’s 2009 Pew research showing that trendline. (Obama was popular for a time; the U.S. was not, with consistent 70-90 percent disapproval in Turkey.)
I have great respect for Mike so nothing here is personal, but the truth is that Turkish relations were in deep trouble because of TURKISH policies long before we ever met the YPG. You can watch Mike and I debate the issue here via @IQ2US - intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/unreso…
As noted, Turkey foreclosed any serious cooperation on ISIS even as 40k foreign fighters flowed through its territory into Syria. Our partnership with the SDF was borne of necessity and soon grew to a force of 60k Syrians: Arabs, Kurds, Christians. It lost 11k fighting ISIS.
Turkey also held American citizens in prison hostage to political demands, routinely threatens NATO ally Greece in the skies over the Mediterranean, and was the largest sanctions buster in history against Iran long before the Syrian civil war ever started. theatlantic.com/international/…
I believe we should do everything possible to maintain and aim over time to improve strategic relations with Turkey but not at the expense of ignoring the reality of what is happening there and opening the door to an ISIS and al Qaeda resurgence.
This sudden and unnecessary betrayal of the SDF strengthens the hands of our adversaries and competitors throughout the region and the world. The saying “never get into a well with an American rope” is gaining currency. The impact will be long-lasting.
I wrote on all of this in @ForeignAffairs in April, when the US and SDF had more options available to mitigate fallout than now. (Now available without a paywall.) This is a serious situation with Americans, at this hour, on the ground & in harm’s way.
Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh.

Enjoying this thread?

Keep Current with Brett McGurk

Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!