Former U.S. envoy dumps on Turkey, Erdoğan

Turkey failed to stop arms shipments across its Syrian border to help fight Islamic State (ISIS) and its proposals to jointly fight ISIS often fell flat, former U.S. envoy to the coalition to fight ISIS told CNN on Monday.

“‘Plan A’, if you will, was to work with Turkey to get a handle on this problem,” former envoy Brett McGurk told CNN host Christiane Amanpour.

"Most of our time was spent in Ankara, because most of the material coming to fuel the ISIS war machine, frankly, was coming across the border from Turkey into Syria,” he said. “And quite frankly it was very frustrating because Turkey did not take much action on the border."

The United States and Turkey rarely found ways to cooperate in the anti-ISIS fight, according to McGurk, in part because their interests diverged in fundamental ways in Syria.

“We have worked very hard with Turkey in various ways and nothing has really worked out,” he said. “When President (Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan puts on the table proposals that might look good in concept, every time we send our best people, our best planners to really dig into what we can do together, it never really pans out.”

McGurk, who resigned in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that U.S. forces would withdraw from Syria, cited Syrian opposition groups that Turkey supports and would like to send into a safe zone.

“They are very closely tied with extremist groups,” he said, pointing to Syria’s Idlib province. “It is really dominated now entirely by groups with ties to al Qaeda. All the border crossings to Turkey are controlled by al Qaeda.”

The former envoy also placed some blame on the Trump administration. He admitted that he never met U.S. President Donald Trump, a sign of disconnect in the White House.

“There is a bit of incoherence between the views of the president, and the views of some of the most senior members of the national security team,” said McGurk. “I think we have to be very realistic about the situation in Syria ... and if we continue to reach for unrealistic objectives U.S. credibility will continue to be diminished.”