Turkey says Syria offensive does not depend on United States troop withdrawal

Pompeo Visits Middle East to Increase Pressure on Iran

Trump Backtracks on Syria Withdrawal For the Sake of the Kurds: New at Reason - Hit & Run : Reason.com

As Turkey makes plans for dealing with security challenges that may emerge following the United States troop withdrawal, there must be constant guessing in Ankara about which USA officials should be believed versus ignored when statements from Trump's administration become contradictory, as they frequently do.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that USA national security adviser John Bolton was making a "serious mistake" by placing the safety of US allies in Syria as a condition of USA withdrawal.

In Jerusalem on Monday, Bolton listed pre-withdrawal "objectives" - including the final defeat of Islamic State and protection of Kurdish allies - that went well beyond Trump's simple assertion that U.S. forces were heading home from Syria.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on a visit to Ankara that the USA forward observation posts would remain indefinitely, despite President Trump's order to pull out the 2,000 American troops stationed inside Syria in the near future.

He also visited American troops in Iraq.

The Saudis have often complained to the USA about the Iranian military presence in Syria.

"President Trump has reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises", Pompeo said.

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Bolton has changed the terms of this decision dramatically since Trump announced it three weeks ago.

Another message he conveyed was that the Turkish Armed Forces has accomplished its preparations for an offensive into Syria to eliminate ISIL and that the operation was imminent. While that decision's timing is unclear, it is widely seen as abandoning the region and favoring U.S. rivals Russian Federation and Iran.

There was no immediate response to the Middle East Eye report from U.S. officials.

In Ankara, which has already protested against the statements made by United States officials on the Kurds, Bolton was expected to discuss guarantees that Turkey would not start military operations in Syrian territory to eliminate the Kurdish militant units.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration's Mideast policies on Thursday, accusing the former president of "misguided" thinking that diminished America's role in the region while harming its longtime friends and emboldening Iran.

"We will be ready", he said.

Meanwhile, in another sign of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington, Cavusoglu said a military operation Turkey was planning against US -backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria did not depend on a withdrawal of USA troops from Syria.

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The main extremist alliance in Syria's Idlib region reached a deal on Thursday ending days of deadly fighting with rival rebels and extending its influence over the whole rebel enclave.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, a new senator and SASC member, revealed mixed feelings, saying he was encouraged with some aspects of the withdrawal plans, including what officials said about the pace of the withdrawal - but he still had questions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drew the wrath of the Turkish leadership last week when he said Washington would ensure "the Turks don't slaughter the Kurds" in Syria as American troops withdraw.

Joseph Dunford met in Ankara Monday and Tuesday with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Yasar Guler, and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on the planned USA ground troop withdrawal from Syria, according to a readout of the meeting from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bolton quickly departed for the USA on Tuesday after Erdogan refused to meet with him and later denounced him in a speech to parliament. "And when we partner with our enemies, they advance", Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo in which he did not mention Obama by name but called him "another American" who gave a speech in the capital of the Arab world's most populous nation.

One Cairo-based foreign diplomat informed on the highlights of Bolton's talks in the Middle East this week said that the U.S. national security adviser had assured his interlocutors that the United States would neither risk the stability of Syria nor allow for a situation that could endanger their interests.

One objective, of course, is the comprehensive defeat of ISIS in Syria. As recently as 5 January, US Special Forces were still conducting patrols in the SDF-controlled town of Manbij, which both the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces and Syrian government have recently expressed intentions to recapture.

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