With friends like the U.S.

By

Opinion

October 8, 2019 - 10:34 AM

U.S. and Turkish troops conduct their third joint ground patrol within a planned safe zone in northern Syria, along the Syrian-Turkish border in Tell Abyad, Syria Friday.

President Trump’s defeat of Islamic State as a territorial power was a major foreign-policy success, yet he may now undo it with a retreat from Syria that will also signal to U.S. allies that the White House can’t be trusted.

That’s the risk of Mr. Trump’s abrupt decision late Sunday to abandon northern Syria to Turkey. Washington and Ankara had been negotiating to create a buffer zone to avoid a conflict there, but on Sunday the White House announced that American forces will cede the area to Turkish troops. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now free to wage war on Syria’s Kurds, who were America’s most important allies against ISIS.

Mr. Erdogan says the U.S.-armed Kurdish fighters in Syria, known as the YPG, have ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a domestic Kurdish insurgency within Turkey. On that exaggerated claim he justifies an exercise that could amount to ethnic cleansing. Mr. Erdogan last month proposed a “safe zone” extending some 20 miles into Syria from the Turkish border, where he would resettle millions of Syrian refugees. This could require the forcible resettlement, or worse, of Kurds already living in the area.

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