In an extensive article penned for The New York Times, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote that Daesh* had been defeated in Syria, "militarily speaking".
US Troop Withdrawal — Right Call
Erdogan noted that his American counterpart, Donald Trump, had "made the right call" to pull out US troops from Syria, but the withdrawal must be planned "carefully" and carried out in close cooperation with "the right partners to protect the interests of the United States, the international community and the Syrian people".
Erdogan elaborated that Ankara's military operations against Daesh prevented terrorists from attacking Turkey and Europe.
He further wrote that "unlike coalition operations in Raqqa and Mosul, which relied heavily on airstrikes that were carried out with little or no regard for civilian casualties", Turkish troops' approach guaranteed that Al Bab's infrastructure remained "largely intact" and that it was possible for people to return to normal life within days.
"This stable environment is the only cure for terrorism. […] There will be no victory for the terrorists. Turkey will continue to do what it must to ensure its own safety and the well-being of the international community", Erdogan wrote.
New Stabilisation Force
While the Turkish president claimed that Daesh had been defeated in military terms, he expressed deep concern that some "outside powers" may use the terror group's remnants as an "excuse to meddle in Syria’s internal affairs".
"A military victory against the terrorist group is a mere first step. The lesson of Iraq, where this terrorist group was born, is that premature declarations of victory and the reckless actions they tend to spur create more problems than they solve. The international community cannot afford to make the same mistake again today", Erdogan warned.
He laid out a "comprehensive strategy" to eradicate the root causes of radicalisation in order to guarantee that people "do not feel disconnected from government", while terrorist organisations do not "get to prey on the grievances of local communities and ordinary people can count on a stable future".
According to him, the first step is to build a stabilisation force that will include fighters from all parts of Syrian society. Such a diverse body, he said, has the sole ability to serve all Syrians and bring law and order to the Mideast country.
"In this sense, I would like to point out that we have no argument with the Syrian Kurds. Under wartime conditions, many young Syrians had no choice but to join the P.Y.D./Y.P.G., the Syrian branch of the P.K.K., that Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist organisation. According to Human Rights Watch, the Y.P.G. militants have violated international law by recruiting children", he penned.
Erdogan stressed that once the US withdraws from Syria, Turkey will complete an "intensive vetting process" to reunite those children with their families and include all fighters with no links to terrorist groups in the envisaged stabilisation force.
Adequate Political Representation
He wrote that the Syrian territories that are now held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), or Daesh, would be governed by "popularly elected councils" under Turkey's watch.
The Turkish president emphasised that his country sought to cooperate and coordinate its actions with its closest friends and allies, and stressed that Turkey is "the sole stakeholder that can work simultaneously with the United States and Russia".
"We will build on those partnerships to get the job done in Syria. It is time for all stakeholders to join forces to end the terror unleashed by the Islamic State, an enemy of Islam and Muslims around the world, and to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity. Turkey is volunteering to shoulder this heavy burden at a critical time in history. We are counting on the international community to stand with us", he concluded.
Erdogan Promised to Protect US-Allied Kurds — Pompeo
Speaking to CNBC, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Erdogan had pledged to defend US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria:
"Erdogan made a commitment to President Trump… that the Turks would continue the counter ISIS [Daesh] campaign after our departure, and that the Turks would ensure that the folks that we'd fought with — that assisted us in the counter ISIS [Daesh] campaign — would be protected".
He added that US National Security Adviser John Bolton was visiting Turkey this week “to have a conversation with the Turks about how they will effectuate that in light of the US withdrawal”.
Trump reiterated on Sunday that the United States would pull its troops out of Syria but suggested it will take several months to complete the withdrawal.
In December, Trump declared victory over Daesh and announced a subsequent withdrawal of US forces from Syria.
*Daesh, also known as ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State/IS, is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.