US, Turkey set for negotiations on fate of Kurds

Minnie Murray
January 8, 2019

A top White House aide says US troops won't leave northeastern Syria until Islamic State militants are defeated and USA -allied Kurdish fighters are protected.

Bolton said the USA wants its Kurdish allies in Syria protected from any planned Turkish offensive - a warning to be delivered to Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "We won." But on Sunday, Trump told reporters he "never said we're doing it that quickly".

Bolton on Sunday said the United States guidance to the Kurds is "stand fast now".

Ahead of talks with Israeli officials, he told reporters the pullout would be done in a way that guaranteed the Islamic State jihadist group "is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again".

FILE - In this December 13, 2018 file photo, National Security Advisor John Bolton unveils the Trump Administration's Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The pullout announced before Christmas was initially expected to be completed within weeks, but the timetable has slowed as the president acceded to requests from aides, allies and members of Congress for a more orderly drawdown. Ankara regards the YPG an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish armed group that has waged an insurgency in southeast Turkey for over three decades.

Israel has expressed concerns that a US pullout from Syria could allow Iran to consolidate its presence there and pose a risk to its security.

He said "certain objectives" must be met before an American withdrawal could happen, the Washington Post reports.

President Donald Trump accused The New York Times of "knowingly" writing a "very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria" in a tweet Monday.

That demand, the Times said, could delay the order by months or years.

Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS/NewscomPresident Donald Trump's abrupt announcement in late December that the United States would be ending its involvement in Syria's long-running, bloody civil war received cheers from non-interventionists, but subsequent comments from senior administration officials have cast doubt on the chances that US troops will be out of the country anytime soon.

And according to Raphael Marcus, Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of War Studies at the King's College London the Golan Heights indeed "remains strategically and militarily important for Israel, in light of Iranian and Hezbollah operational activity in southern Syria, specifically on the Syrian side of the Golan". Bolton said the discussion is meant to determine "what the dispensary of the Turkish forces is going to be, how they relate to the opposition, and so on".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has asserted, in both internal briefings and public interviews, that Trump's instructions are clear and the troops are coming out, while saying the administration's overall goals for the region have not changed.

The leaders confirmed their mutual willingness to increase cooperation in fighting against global terrorism and solving other pressing world issues, they said. Or [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad.

Bolton said the USA has asked the Kurds to "stand fast now" and allow the continue negotiations.

"The danger, I think, is that in the absence of a hard plan, you get competing fiefdoms", Stein added.

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