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article imageOp-Ed: US ground troops will not be involved in policing Syria ceasefire

By Ken Hanly     Oct 19, 2019 in Politics
The United States is proceeding with its withdrawal from northeast Syria. The Pentagon said on Friday that no US ground troops will help enforce the ceasefire agreement that was recently negotiated with Turkey.
Mark Esper, the US Defense Secretary, said however that US forces will remain in contact with both Turkey and Syrian Kurdish fighters. The latter were allies in the fight against ISIS
The background
The agreement between the US and Turkey is described by US Vice-President Mike Pence: "Pence said Turkey had agreed to pause its offensive for five days while the United States helped facilitate the withdrawal of ­Kurdish-led forces, called the ­Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), from a large swath of territory stretching from Turkey’s border nearly 20 miles south into Syria. After the completion of the Kurdish withdrawal, Turkey’s military operation, which began Oct. 9, would be “halted entirely,” Pence said."
As noted in a recent Digital Journal article the Turks and Kurds disagree on the meaning of the ceasefire. The Turks claim the ceasefire involves the Kurds withdrawing from the entire safe zone while the Kurds claim it applies to only a part that the Turks have mostly under their control already.
The United States in effect gave the Turks a green light to invade the safe zone by withdrawing all their troops from the area in all about 1,000 troops. Trump appears to want to avoid any possible conflict with Turkish forces. Esper said: "The United States is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from Northeastern Syria as previously announced."
The US appears to be further abandoning the Kurds
Esper also said that the US will not participate in the enforcement of the ceasefire in the safe zone. However, Esper did say that the US would carry out aerial reconnaissance of the zone. The Turks seem to have the US blessing to establish the safe zone they have long desired and Kurdish forces will be required to exit the area. However given the different interpretations of the agreement fighting may continue.
The two sides claim each other has broken the agreement
The Turkish Defense Ministry accuses the Kurds of breaking the ceasefire: "The ministry said there had been 14 "provocative attacks" from Kurdish fighters in the past 36 hours, 12 in the town of Ras al-Ain, which has been besieged by Turkey-allied Syrian fighters for several days.It said the Kurdish fighters used mortars, rockets, anti-aircraft and anti-tank heavy machine guns in the attacks, adding that Ankara was in "instantaneous coordination" with Washington to ensure the continuity of calm."
The commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces accused Turkey of not allowing their troops and others to withdraw: "The Turks are preventing the withdrawal from the Ras al-Ain area, preventing the exit of our forces, the wounded and civilians," Mazloum Abdi, the head of the SDF, said in a phone interview with the AFP news agency."
Abdi also complained that the US was not doing enough to force Turkey to abide by the agreement. He added that he considers the situation a conspiracy against Kurdish forces. He said that the Turks could claim that the Kurds violated the agreement by not withdrawing when they prevented it.
While there has been less fighting since the agreement, it appears that the ceasefire is unlikely to be successful as it appears unlikely that the Kurds will withdraw from all the areas the Turks require and the US is doing little to ensure the Turks keep their end of the bargain. The agreement seems to be biased against the Kurds.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about US Turkey relations, Syrian civil war, Cease fire in Syria
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