To nobody’s surprise, Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday claimed “hundreds” of Kurdish fighters are still loitering near Syria’s border with Turkey despite promising to withdraw as part of the “ceasefire” Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo brokered in Ankara last week.
What the two Mikes actually did was promise Erdogan that if he stopped killing people for five days, the US would facilitate the removal of Kurds from the “buffer” zone Erdogan wants to establish. In other words, Pence and Pompeo agreed to help Turkey force America’s former allies from their land just a week after abandoning them and subjecting them to the wrath of the Turkish military.
That “ceasefire” expires on Tuesday. Over the weekend, Erdogan promised to start “crushing heads” again in the event he finds any Kurds in, around or between Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad after 10 p.m.
“We are talking about 700-800 (YPG fighters) already withdrawn and the rest, around 1,200-1,300, are continuing to withdraw. It has been said that they will withdraw”, Erdogan said Tuesday. “All will have to get out, the process will not end before they are out”.
Those remarks came just as Erdogan departed for Sochi, where he met with Vladimir Putin to decide what happens west of the current incursion. Bashar al-Assad’s forces backed by Russia and Hezbollah have entered Manbij and Kobani, which means Erdogan’s vision of a “safe zone” along the entire border will be subject to Kremlin approval and likely will not take the form of permanent Turkish military presence deep into Syria.
Meanwhile, in yet another testament to the idea that Donald Trump is making things up as he goes along and lying his ass off in the process, the Iraqi military on Tuesday said US forces crossing the border from Syria absolutely do not have permission to stay.
“All US forces that withdrew from Syria received approval to enter the Kurdistan Region so that they may be transported outside Iraq. There is no permission granted for these forces to stay inside Iraq”, a statement from Iraqi military reads.
That comes just days after Mark Epser (or, “Mark Esperanto“, as Trump calls him) claimed the US troops leaving Syria have two missions going forward. “One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps”, he said. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal”.
As it turns out, “things changed” virtually overnight courtesy of the Iraqi military who (surprise!) doesn’t appear to have been consulted on Esper’s new “mission” plan for the nearly 1,000 troops Trump is pulling out of Syria.
So, who knows where those 1,000 servicemen and women will end up. Maybe Trump will actually bring them home, or perhaps just relocate them to Saudi Arabia, where they can join the 1,800 new “personnel” the president just deployed to help defend Prince Mohammed’s oil.
But hey, at least the withdrawal went “smoothly”!