World Intel officials say ISIS could regroup after U.S. 'betrayal' of Kurds in Syria
White House says Turkey's Syria operation is imminent, US troops won't be present
The White House on Sunday night said Turkey will soon be launching a military operation in northeastern Syria and that U.S. troops will no longer be "in the immediate area" when it happens."Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
WASHINGTON — A sustained Turkish military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria —— would vastly increase the threat to Americans from ISIS, which remains intent on attacking the West, current and former intelligence officials tell NBC News.
The immediate concern, officials say, is what will happen with the 12,000 ISIS fighters currently being guarded by. The ISIS prisoners are the . If those fighters are set free, officials fear a replay of what happened in Iraq between 2010 and 2013, when the core group who founded ISIS were released or escaped from detention after U.S. forces left the country.
Hillary Clinton calls Trump's Syria pullout a 'sickening betrayal' of allies
Hillary Clinton on Monday slammed the Trump administration's decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria. © Greg Nash Hillary Clinton calls Trump's Syria pullout a 'sickening betrayal' of allies "Let us be clear: The president has sided with authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Russia over our loyal allies and America's own interests," Clinton, a former secretary of State and senator and President Trump's Democratic rival in 2016, tweeted."His decision is a sickening betrayal both of the Kurds and his oath of office.
Some of the very people who broke out of Iraqi prisons helped turn ISIS into a movement that not only seized territory in Iraq and Syria, but orchestrated and encouraged terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.
More broadly, current and former officials say, a large Turkish military incursion into Northern Syria will have the effect of removing the single greatest source of counterterrorism pressure against ISIS — a Kurdish force that has been crucial to defeating and containing the terror group.
Asked about the risks, U.S. intelligence officials chose their words carefully Wednesday, not wanting to say anything publicly that appears to criticize Trump's policies. But they did not dispute what one of the top counterterrorism officials in the government told NBC News last month —, and that reduction of counterterrorism pressure on the group would "set the conditions for potential re-emergence in a very powerful way."
Trump defends Syria move: The Kurds 'didn't help us' in Normandy
President Trump on Wednesday criticized the Kurds, saying they didn't help the United States during World War II and that they were only fighting for their land in Syria during the battle against ISIS."The Kurds are fighting for their land," Trump told reporters at the White House during an event in the Roosevelt Room."And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the second World War, they didn't"The Kurds are fighting for their land," Trump told reporters at the White House during an event in the Roosevelt Room.
"They are absolutely still a viable external operational threat globally," said the official, who chose not to be identified.
Just days before Trump ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from the border region of northern Syria, a bipartisan team appointed by Congress, the Syria Study Group, issued a report warning that an American pullout would take the pressure off the terrorists.
"There's ample evidence ISIS is still very much active, it has access to tremendous resources, its brand still has international appeal," said Dana Stroul, co-author of the Syria Study Group report and a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.
"We know that ISIS is looking for opportunities to reconstitute and certainly the lifting of pressure on ISIS is likely to provide the organization with that opportunity."
Thesaid that ISIS had lost its grip on territory in Syria and Iraq but had "morphed into an insurgency with the will, capability, and resources to carry out attacks against the United States."
They Think Trump Betrayed the Kurds. Why Do They Still Support Him?
Republicans are having to defy logic to back Trump in 2020.Is it possible to believe that President Donald Trump is abandoning a vital ally to slaughter, that he is ensuring the rebirth of a genocidal terrorist group that threatens the United States, and that he ought to be the 2020 GOP nominee?
Apart from ISIS, al Qaeda-linked groups and other extremists are active in Syria, taking advantage of the chaos of the country's civil war, according to the report.
"Areas of Syria have become safe havens for al Qaeda and its fellow travelers and home to the largest concentration of foreign terrorist fighters since Afghanistan in the 1990s," the report said.
Current and former officials also expressed frustration over what they see as a profound betrayal of a Kurdish force — which fought under the rubric of the Syrian Democratic Forces — that lost thousands of men fighting to defeat the ISIS caliphate on behalf of the United States.
"I've worked directly with the SDF and had many fighters from the group I grew to trust with my life," a former CIA officer told NBC News. "Now I realize they are all going to be killed or detained after we betrayed them — killed with weapons we gave to Turkey."
Tom Donilon, who was President Obama's national security adviser, told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, "We have given a green light to the Turks to come and fight our allies. … It's a real stain on the reputation of the United States."
Trump sends $50 million in emergency funds to Syria
The funds are meant to "protect persecuted ethnic and religious minorities and advance human rights""This funding will provide emergency financial assistance to Syrian human rights defenders, civil society organizations and reconciliation efforts directly supporting ethnic and religious minority victims of the conflict," the statement reads.
Some analysts see it differently, pointing out that U.S. backed Kurdish forces are linked to the PKK, a Kurdish military group that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. Turkey has been fighting the group for decades, they say, and there was always going to be a day of reckoning, unless the U.S. planned to keep troops in Syria forever.
The former CIA officer said in response: "They trusted us and believed us. If we didn't intend to honor our promise, we should not have made it."
The White House declined to comment, but referred NBC News to a previous statement by President Trump:
"Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place — and we will hold them to this commitment. In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely."
Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS .
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and Turkey, penned an open letter in English rebuking President Trump's comparison of the group to ISIS amid a fight between Kurds and Turkish forces in northern Syria. © Reuters/NDN Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS The PKK said in Friday's letter that it "refused comparisons" to ISIS after Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday that the Kurds were "no angels" and that the PKK is likely "more of a terrorist threat" than ISIS.
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