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Ilhan Tanir
Jan 03 2019

U.S. will ensure Turkish Army will not "slaughter the Kurds" - Pompeo

The United States will ensure that the Turkish Army does not slaughter Kurds while it pulls American troops  out of Syria, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview with Newsmax news organization.

U.S. President Donald Trump's sudden declaration that U.S. forces would withdraw entirely from their deployment in areas mainly in north east Syria shocked the world on December 19, and prompted Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis and the U.S. envoy leading the anti-Islamic State coalition, Brett McGurk, to resign.

This week Trump said he has no timetable for the withdrawal. Officials have told press it will take many more months for U.S. forces to leave Syria, and Pompeo, too, declined to give a timeline for the withdrawal.

“I don’t want the adversaries to know precisely when it is we will be departing,” Pompeo said.

“But the guidance there is unambiguous,” he added, “and we’ll get it done.”

Pompeo said during the interview that the State Department's mission would be to execute president Trump's orders. Those, he said, include "ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds" and "the protection of religious minorities there in Syria." 

"All of those things are still part of the American mission set," Pompeo said.

John Bachman, a reporter with Newsmax, asked Pompeo whether he found Turkish President Erdogan "reliable as an ally", but Pompeo chose not to answer the question directly. Pompeo said: 

"So we still have lots of things to work with on the Turks.  They’re a NATO partner.  There are places where they’re very supportive of the things that Americans care about and which keep Americans safe.  There are other places we have real concerns.  We still have Americans that are being held there.  And so the conversation with the Turks continues.  Ambassador Bolton and Jim Jeffrey will travel there next week to talk about Syria.  There are lots of places where we need to work with President Erdogan and the Turkish leadership to get good outcomes for the United States."

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull troops out of northeastern Syria is "a total capitulation to Erdogan," an informed source has told CNN on Wednesday.  U.S. officials were also having a hard time believing whether Erdogan has the will and ability to defeat the remnants of ISIS, told CNN. "Erdogan's real objective is to fight the very Kurds who have been fighting ISIS alongside American forces." 

On the other hand, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Tuesday said that the Turkish Armed Forces had taken on a new role of fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in neighbouring Syria and will begin the task in the upcoming days, independent news site Diken reported.

Turkey has been  sending tanks and artillery near Syrian border following the announcement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this month that Ankara was preparing to launch a third military operation against the Kurdish militia in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, unless Washington made the Kurdish militants leave the area.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.