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Is Trump's Syria Policy about to Loose 12,000 ISIL Terrorists on the World?

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Tessa Fox at Al Jazeera writes that Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. special operations forces from northern Syria in expectation of a Turkish invasion could throw the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia cultivated for the past four years by the US into confusion. Moreover, Bashar al-Assad's Syrian Arab Army may make a bid to take the gas and oil fields of Deir al-Zor province, currently under SDF control. (SDF's major and only really important component is the People's Protection Units (YPG) of the Kurdish paramilitary.) As a result of all this turmoil, the some 12,000 ISIL terrorists now locked up in containment camps could well escape. Many of them are from abroad and might make their way back home to plot further terror.

These alarms are being raised virtually everywhere except in the White House and in Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's presidential palaces.

Although for the moment, Trump just pulled out the 50 US troops up near the Syrian border with Turkey, and the US apparently still has about 1,000 military personnel in the Kurdish region of Syria, Trump says he wants to bring them all out. Doing so without any plan whatsoever for the aftermath is typical of Trump but could turn into a disaster.

The British are alarmed, and are saying that they will have to withdraw their several hundred special operations forces from northeast Syria if the US gets out, since they depend on America for logistics, transport, rescue operations, etc. Trump's departure, in other words, will create a reverse snowball effect where the anti-terror coalition will shrink to nothing without the American commitment.

The Kurdistan Regional Government expressed the profoundest fears that if 12,000 ISIL fighters got loose, they would also threaten the security of Iraq, not just Syria. Until the liberation of Mosul on 21 July 2017, the KRG was daily threatened by ISIL violence. I had a friend who was in Kurdistan then and would go down to the border and could actually see the black flags flying menacingly.

For his part, Erdogan says that his government is studying the best ways to ensure that jailed ISIL operatives do not escape.

This statement is not reassuring, since it is way past the time to study and prepare for this issue on the part of Turkey, if it is planning to invade Syria. Arabi21 quotes Turkish analyst Oktay Yilmaz saying that the Americans had used this ISIL business as a pretext to go into Syria and then to give away a third of Syria to a terrorist organization. This sort of "analysis" is common in Turkey, where many government officials and journalists just can't seem to see ISIL as the enemy even as they vastly exaggerate the danger to Turkey of some 2 million Syrian Kurdish post-socialists (who have not actually committed any terrorism). I mean, I think what ISIL did to Paris or Brussels or Kabul or Mosul might somehow have gotten on TV news in Turkey.

So the likelihood that ISIL will be any sort of priority for the Turkish government is extremely low, and I wouldn't bet on those ISIL terrorists remaining in their cells.

Bonus Video:

Bloomberg TicToc: "Syrian Kurds Vow to Put 'Own People' Before Islamic State Fight

 

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Juan Cole is an American academic and commentator on the modern Middle East and South Asia.  He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, Informed Comment (more...)
 

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3 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments  Post Comment


John Lawrence Ré

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"Moreover, Bashar al-Assad's Syrian Arab Army may make a bid to take the gas and oil fields of Deir al-Zor province, currently." Your posing this as a problem falls right in line with the new breed of neocons in sheep's clothing. Hopefully, Assad takes control back and puts an end to this latest dark escapade in US aggression. Should have been done long ago, though Obama should never have pissed on their fence posts in the first place.

Submitted on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019 at 7:10:32 PM

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Patrice Greanville

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

Could not agree with you more. Juan Cole was unmasked years ago as a faux anti-imperialist, a "neocon in sheep's clothes" as you lucidly put it. Who the hell allows this phony progressive to appear in this site? Someone is asleep at the wheel. Shameful.

Submitted on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019 at 7:34:07 PM

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Patrice Greanville

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

If you like OEN, you'lllove The Greanville Post, uncompromisingly on the left, and non-factionalist. Have a tour: .greanvillepost.com/

Submitted on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019 at 7:37:06 PM

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Thank you, Patrice. I love TGP ... have been reading it for years. I don't comment that often because I am almost always in agreement with the articles.

Submitted on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019 at 10:42:08 PM

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Patrice Greanville

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

Very glad to hear, John. It was terrific that you DID comment here, to vaccinate OEN readers against this guy's snake oil. In an environment of all-out disinformation, something that clearly reaches deep into the so-called "alternative media", we need to be vigilant. As Caity Johnstone never tires of saying, whoever control the narrative, controls the game. And "the game" in imperial hands means untold suffering and death for huge numbers of people, animals, and more assaults on a tormented planet.

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 10, 2019 at 12:33:58 PM

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

John, you got it exactly right. Both of the major political parties are war parties, always eager to wage wars of aggression wherever they find any country which fails to follow U.S. orders. There is always some pretext, the post 9/11 favorite being "fighting terror". In point of fact, this Country is the world's leading terrorist state, consistently committing mass murder wherever it can stir up trouble. I also read that some are complaining about how a U.S. withdrawal would constitute the abandonment of the Kurds. Well how about the notion that the Kurds could protect themselves by submitting to the rightful state authority, which is the government of Syria. Then Turkey could decide if it really wants to join in an all out war with Syria (and its ally, Russia). Aggression and hypocrisy are the two most appropriate words to describe U.S. foreign policy.

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 10, 2019 at 2:43:14 PM

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