Pull-out puzzle: on withdrawal of U.S.
troops from Syria
Mains Paper 3: International Relations
Prelims level: U.S. – Turkey
Mains level: India and neighbourhood relations
- President Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal of American troops
from Syria ran into trouble this week as Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan rebuffed National Security Adviser John Bolton’s suggestions for an
- After Mr. Trump announced the pull-out of about 2,000 troops from
northeast Syria, Mr. Bolton had said the troops would leave the war-torn
country after the Islamic State is beaten.
- He also said Kurds, U.S. allies in the fight against the IS,
should be protected.
Reasons behind the withdrawal
- This has ostensibly angered Turkey, which considers the Syrian
Democratic Forces, the official military wing of Syrian Kurdistan, an
offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, deemed a terrorist group by Ankara
- Mr. Erdogan, who initially welcomed Mr. Trump’s announcement of
troops withdrawal, lashed out at Mr. Bolton for setting conditions for the
- Tensions were so high that Mr. Erdogan refused to meet Mr. Bolton,
who was in Turkey. The U.S. is now in a fix. Its President has announced the
- It cannot just exit Syria without considering the existing
geopolitical equations in the region. Kurds were pivotal in the war against
the IS, and it is highly likely that Turkey could attack them as soon as the
U.S. troops leave.
- Ankara sees an autonomous, militarily powerful Kurdistan on the
Syrian side of the border as a threat to its territorial integrity.
What are the problems?
- Mr. Trump announced his decision to withdraw troops.
- He should have held talks with the stakeholders, including Turkey,
Russia and Kurds, before taking a decision.
- Or he could have used his intent to pull out from Syria as a
bargaining chip to extract concessions from other countries involved in the
- In the event, the abrupt announcement has become a concession to
Turkey, which was hamstrung by U.S. presence in the Kurdish-populated region
in pursuing its own military options. In practical terms, the U.S. has three
- It could go ahead with the unilateral pull-out irrespective of
what Turkey does.
- This would leave the Kurds at the mercy of Mr. Erdogan and the
- Mr. Trump can walk back on his decision and continue to station
troops in Syria, influencing, at least partially, the outcome of the civil
- This is unlikely given his aversion to keeping troops indefinitely
in Syria (and other West Asian conflict zones).
- The U.S. can stagger the withdrawal and pursue talks with Turkey,
Russia and the Syrian government to reach an agreement to guarantee the
protection of the Kurds and the defeat of the IS in Syria.
- Mr. Bolton’s Ankara trip may have failed to extract any assurances
from Mr. Erdogan, but Washington should continue to keep diplomatic channels
open to ensure that the pull-out is done in an orderly fashion.
Q.1) Operation Euphrates Shield” has been launched in Syria by which
a) United States of America
d) Israel and Jordan
Q.1) As Turkey rebuffs its plea to protect Syrian Kurds, the U.S. must evaluate
its next move. Critically examine the statement.
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