This week, Donald Trump pulled 50 special operators from Syria’s border with Turkey, where the troops were embedded with the Kurdish YPG, who have been America’s staunchest ally in the fight against ISIS.
The president’s excuse is that he wants to put a stop to “endless wars” and save American lives.
“I have to sign letters often to parents of young soldiers that were killed and it’s the hardest thing I have to do. I hate it”, Trump told reporters on Tuesday, when asked about the fact that by pulling those 50 soldiers away from YPG positions, the White House had knowingly green-lighted a Turkish offensive which, through Friday, had killed at least 220 people and left tens of thousands displaced.
Fast forward to Friday and the same White House which continues to insist that removing 50 soldiers from Syria’s border with Turkey was all about protecting Americans and nothing to do with placating Recep Tayyip Erdogan (whose relationship with Trump is “complicated”, to say the least), is all set to send “about 1,800” troops to Saudi Arabia.
Let that sink in: Trump couldn’t commit to keeping 50 US special operators in place with America’s closest on-the-ground ally in Syria in order to ensure those allies weren’t attacked by the Turkish army, but he’s perfectly fine with committing 36 times that number of troops to the defense of Saudi Arabia, a country run by unelected royals in whose government the ideology espoused by al-Qaeda and ISIS is institutionalized.
More specifically, the US is deploying two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot batteries and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system to the Kingdom. Mark Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman about the plans today.
The deployment was, of course, announced last month, but the number of troops wasn’t specified. At the time, Esper and Joseph Dunford told reporters it was reasonable to say that the number of personnel sent to the Kingdom to defend the Saudis following the attacks on the nation’s oil infrastructure would not be “in the thousands”.
Technically, that’s true. 1,800 is not in the thousands – with an “s” at the end. But it is pretty close, and it’s highly questionable whether the American public is willing to ignore the rather obvious discrepancy between Trump’s unwillingness to keep four-dozen US troops in place with the YPG in Syria, and the president’s decision to commit 36 times that number to the defense of Saudi Arabia’s oil.
Of course, there’s no mystery here. Trump is notorious for folding to autocrats (hence the concession to Erdogan), went to extraordinary lengths to protect Prince Mohammed in the aftermath of the Khashoggi murder (going so far as to exercise his veto power and arguably break the law) and thinks of Syria as a “sh*thole” comprised of little more than “sand and death”.
Altogether, Trump has boosted America’s troop presence in the Mideast by around 14,000 since May.
But, that’s fine, because there are 50 less Americans on Syria’s border with Turkey.
Oh, one more thing. Esper is “very disappointed” in Turkey…