Trump’s acts have simply stoked Daesh’s revival - GulfToday

Trump’s acts have simply stoked Daesh’s revival

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Turkish-backed Syrian fighters gather on the roof of a building in Tadef, near the city of Al Bab, in the eastern countryside of Aleppo. File/Agence France-Presse

Michael Jansen, Political Correspondent

The Pentagon’s inspector general has issued a report saying that Daesh, which still can field 14,000 to 18,000 fighters, is reviving in Syria and Iraq.

The report, which covers the period from April 1 to June 30th, 2019, says Donald Trump’s precipitate decisions to withdraw 3,000 US troops from Syria and to downsize the US diplomatic presence in Iraq is at least partially to blame for the resurgence of Daesh. By downsizing, the US has left its Syrian Kurdish partners and the Iraqi security forces “unable to sustain long-term operations against (Daesh) militants.” The Syrian Kurds now retain “limited capacity” to hold Syrian territory liberated from Daesh.

Its fighters have been mounting attacks on military and civilians, carrying out assassinations and kidnappings, and burning crops in Syria and Iraq.

The vast al-Hol camp holding thousands of Daesh evacuees from battles across Syria has become a base for recruitment. Former US special envoy Brett McGurk predicted last December that Trump’s actions would lead to a vacuum and chaos and create “an environment for extremists to thrive.”

Trump has repeatedly trumpeted the US victory over Daesh and the end of its false “caliphate,” but the report says Daesh has “continued its transition from a territory-holding force to an insurgency in Syria, and it’s intensified its insurgency in Iraq.”

The Pentagon’s deputy inspector general, Glenn Fine, writes in a note attached to the report, “The reduction of US forces has decreased support for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the (Daesh) resurgence.”

The report also argues that the reduction of the already low level of troops in Syria, which prompted Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to resign, has increased regional instability. An ex-Marine general, Mattis was one of the regime’s “adults” who managed to restrain Trump when he was about to make a bad decision. After Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left there were no more “adults” around Trump, only “yes men” who do not criticise or cross Trump.

Without reading the report, current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the Pentagon’s assessment by bragging about the Trump regime’s “success we’ve had versus (Daesh)...I’m sure its the case that there’s (sic) pockets where they’ve become a little stronger.  I can assure you there are places where its become weaker as well.”  Pompeo, like his boss, clearly does not read what he knows will contradict the Trump line on any issue.

Coinciding with the Pentagon report, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that Daesh retains $300 million “with none of the financial demands of controlling territory and population.” He told the Security Council that Daesh is capable of financing “terrorist acts” in Syria, Iraq and abroad.

One of Trump’s presidential election campaign pledges was to pull US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Eager to honour his pledges to please his  “base” of supporters, he does not consider the repercussions of his actions — which were and are entirely predictable.

The most dangerous predictable consequence of the troop drawdown in Syria is Ankara’s threat to invade and occupy a wide band of Syrian territory along the Syrian-Turkish border and evict US-backed Kurdish fighters from this area. Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection units (YPG) offshoots of the insurgent Turkish Workers’ Party which has been fighting for autonomy or independence over the past 35 years. A Turkish campaign would not only rout the YPG but also effect the ethnic cleansing of Kurdish and Arab civilians from the Turkish occupied “peace zone.” Displaced families would be replaced by Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Ankara has already carried out demographic engineering in areas it holds in Syria.

In early 2018 Turkey seized the Kurdish-majority district of Afrin in north-western Syria and expelled its YPG defenders and half the civilian population.  Turkey then settled Daesh, al-Qaeda and Free Syrian Army fighters and their families in abandoned houses in Afrin. Turkey’s policy is certain to cause fresh conflict in Syria and regional instability.

Alarmed by the possibility of an imminent Turkish invasion of northern Syria, responsible Pentagon officers have negotiated a deal with Ankara involving the creation of a buffer zone between Turkish forces and the YPG although differences over the size and management of the zone are still to be finalised. Turkey has dubbed this YPG-free corridor on the Syrian side of the border a “peace zone.” Let us see who dictates the terms of this deal.  The US is in a weak position because Trump wants out.

We in Cyprus know full well what happens when Turkey speaks of “peace:” the northern 36 per cent of the island has been occupied and ethnically cleansed of its Greek Cypriot population for 45 years. Mainland Turkish settlers now out-number Turkish Cypriots, many of whom strongly oppose the occupation.

Trump has said that a small US force would remain in Syria as long as needed in the campaign against Daesh. But, he has insisted, “We’ll be out of there pretty soon. And let them handle their own problems. Syria can handle their own problems — along with Iran, along with Russia, along with Iraq, along with Turkey. We’re 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometres) away.” He did not bother to check his figure. This is the distance Kabul is from Washington.

Trump is also planning to declare victory and to “cut and run” from Afghanistan. Again he has put the US at a disadvantage in talks with the fundamentalist Taliban because of his determination to leave. During nearly a year of discussions, the Taliban has refused to ceasefire. Consequently thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed, maimed and wounded. The Trump regime’s main demand is for the Taliban to guarantee there will be no attacks on the US by al-Qaeda “central” and Daesh branch (Khorasan) are rooted in Afghanistan. He cares nothing for the Afghans or their future.

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