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    Scholar Doubts US Will Withdraw All Forces From Syria' in 3-4 Years

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    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at US National Security Adviser John Bolton, saying he had made a “very serious mistake” in calling on Ankara to guarantee protection for Kurds in Syria as a precondition for the US withdrawal of troops from the country.

    Sputnik discussed this with Salih Dogan, a researcher in politics and international affairs specializing in Turkish politics and foreign policy at the UK's Keele University.

    READ MORE: Russian Deputy FM Explains Why Moscow Doubts Full US Withdrawal From Syria

    Sputnik: President Erdogan has slammed Bolton's comments regarding the Syrian Kurdish militia and yet again reiterated that Ankara cannot compromise on this issue. Do you think that Bolton's precondition that the militia should be protected is going to work, and what does this mean for US-Turkish talks?

    Salih Dogan: It seems unlikely for both countries to reach a common point in this matter. John Bolton is saying the United States will leave Syria when ISIL* is beaten, Kurds are safe and they've assured Israel's security in the region. When we look at Turkey's agenda, we cannot even see these matters in Turkey's agenda, they don't even give much importance to these issues. When it comes to Syria, Turkey actually considers YPG a terrorist organization, however, the United States works with the YPG in the northern part of Syria to fight against ISIL, and they were quite helpful.

    President Erdogan has praised Donald Trump's decision to pull out all the US soldiers, but it's not going to happen quite soon. When Erdogan said this withdrawal must be done with the right partners,Erdogan only considers Turkey as the best partner for the US to do this job, he doesn't think this is something too big for Turkey to handle by itself. It's not quite easy for the United States and Turkey to reconcile on this issue. If it's going to happen, they're going to agree on something, it will take time and it will also require compromise from both sides.

    Sputnik: In a recent Op-Ed for the New York Times, President Erdogan wrote that Turkey is the only country with the power and commitment to protect the interests of the United States, the international community and the Syrian people. Do you think that this is a bit too ambitious?

    Salih Dogan: It's perfect on paper, in reality when you look at the region it doesn't seem that it can easily be practical. First of all, why does Turkey have to protect the interests of the United States? I don't know why Erdogan mentioned this actually, why would Turkey do it? There are millions of Syrian people in Turkey, most of them are in really bad conditions, and it is also true for millions of Syrian people in Syria as well. Why does Turkey feel obliged to focus on the interests of the United States? I can't really understand that.

    READ MORE: Turkey Repeats Call on US to Withdraw Kurdish YPG From Manbij, Syria

    We haven't hears a clear practical plan from Turkish President or from his team on Syrian issue, on paper they seem perfect but we need more detail. I guess there have talks between the United States and Turkey and Turkey is saying just leave it to us we can handle this, but is Damascus going to be happy with this? Is Russia going to be happy with this? It's quite hard for only Turkey to handle this issue; it still requires support from the international community.

    Sputnik: Of course, the Turkish leader has also been proposing creating a new stabilisation force in Syria what do you think he meant? And is this at all possible?

    Salih Dogan: As I said, this is something perfect on paper, I don't really see a promising future here as well. He says we have no argument with the Syrian Kurds etc., but we know that the Syrian community, the Kurdish community even in Turkey, in Iraq or in Syria are not really happy with the Turkish government actually, and with Erdogan himself also. So when he says that they have no argument with the Syrian Kurds and they can do all those things the stabilisation force featuring fighters from all parts of the Syrian society, he says there are some needs of course like these people who going to serve should not have any relations with dangerous groups, by which he means like terrorist groups, namely the YPG. So the biggest problem I see here — these are the biggest obstacles. If we can't tackle this, we can't just walk further, and that's why creating a stabilisation force is quite important and what Erdogan is saying in his recent article is something perfect, but I don't see that it can be practical in the region.

    Sputnik: Going back to this withdrawal of US troops from Syria. Do you think it is really going to happen or it will stall because if you look at both sides, on the one hand, we've just heard Erdogan saying that he cannot compromise on the issue of the Kurdish YPG militia. He says that they've even completed preparations for a military operation in Syria, and yet we hear the US side stressing that as a precondition for the withdrawal, yes, they have to guarantee safety for the Kurdish militia, it looks like an impasse…

    Salih Dogan: Yes, definitely. It's Trump actually; it's hard to put in exact words to describe how much US has the actual will to withdraw its troops from Syria, and yet he said that he's going to withdraw all the troops from Syria. But at least we know, and I'm pretty sure, the Pentagon is not really happy with Trump's position to withdraw all the forces from Syria, but again it's Trump and he can do whatever he wants and he can say whatever he believes, actually. They have done it in Afghanistan as well actually. They had announced that they're going to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan and they did partially withdraw, but it wasn't quite perfect for Afghanistan. Things got worse in Afghanistan, and we can't guarantee under these circumstances that it's going to be much better for Syria. I mean, the same politics didn't work out in Afghanistan and I don't think it's going to work out in Syria as well, so I don't think it's going to happen very soon. I don't think the United States will withdraw all its forces from Syria in the next 3-4 years at least.

    READ MORE: 'US Will Not Withdraw From Syria or Middle East at all' — Scholar

    Sputnik: And of course Turkey has been urging the United States to hand over the US military bases in Syria to Ankara or destroy them. Do you think this is likely to happen?

    Salih Dogan: I don't think it's going to happen. I mean, if the United States is going to do something like that,it means that Turkey has given something instead of it and I could say this. If the United States doesn't get anything from Turkey, they're not going to do that and I don't understand why this self-esteem comes to the Turkish side that they believe they can do all these things in Syria by themselves with only support from the international powers but implementing will be the Turkish side only. It doesn't make sense to me, actually.

    Sputnik: Do you think one of the sides is likely to finally agree to a certain specific compromise to move ahead with the negotiations?

    Salih Dogan: If something is going happen, I guess Turkey is going to compromise something because the United States will not leave the region quite easily, because I mean they clearly said that the Kurds should be safe, ISIL should be beaten and they will leave when they're assured Israel's security in the region. So if these are not going to happen, they will not leave. So if Turkey really wants the United States to leave the region to itself, to implement its plan in the region, Turkey will have to compromise on something.

    *Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State/IS), a terrorist group banned in Russia and a wide number of other countries.


    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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