MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Vice President Mike Pence announced Monday he would lead a delegation to Turkey.
“The United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion, to implement an immediate ceasefire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring the violence to an end,” Pence said.
This comes after President Donald Trump announced new tariffs on Turkey in response to its military offensive in Syria. Over the weekend, the president ordered a pullback of troops in the region.
The situation in northeastern Syria seems to be changing by the hour. So, how did we get to this point? Good Question.
“It’s complicated, and I think that’s the easy answer,” said Binnur Ozkececi-Taner, a professor of political science at Hamline University. “It’s complicated because you have so many actors.”
First, there are the Kurds, which is an ethnic group without a state. There are Kurds living in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They are the largest ethnic minority in Syria. In 2014, the U.S. partnered with the Kurdish militia in Syria to fight ISIS.
Second, there are the Turkish forces who wants the Kurdish forces along the Turkey-Syria border gone. For years, Turkey has considered an off-shoot group of the Kurds a terrorist organization. Turkey also wants to resettle 3.6 million Syrian refugees now living in Turkey in that Syrian area along the border.
Third, there is the Syrian government, who announced on Monday it would partner with the Kurdish forces against Turkey.
There’s also ISIS prisoners who are being held in prisoners in Syria. CBS News reported Monday night that Defense Secretary Mark Esper said many ISIS prisoners have escaped, but U.S. officials don’t have a solid number because American troops have withdrawn from the area.
“Kurdish forces continue to guard the prisons, although at reduced manning levels,” reports David Martin of CBS News.
Ozkececi-Taner said the U.S. hasn’t had a good Syrian policy for years. In 2014, the U.S. partnered with a group of Syrian Kurds to fight ISIS.
“If we consider ISIS defeated in Syria, it’s because of the Kurdish forces,” said Ozkececi-Taner.
Last week, President Trump announced he wants U.S. troops out of Syria.
“We were supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, we’ve now been there for 10 years,” said President Trump at a campaign rally last week in Minneapolis.
Within days, Turkey went in to clear the Kurds from the border. Since then, dozens of civilians and more than 130,000 people have been displaced.
“Withdrawal from the United States in Syria means a vacuum that might be filled with something else,” said Ozkececi-Taner. “It might be China, it might be Russia, it might be Turkey. Do the U.S. people need to be worried about that? Perhaps.”