Senior envoy in Syria highly critical of troop withdrawal
WASHINGTON — A senior American diplomat has written a highly critical assessment of the Trump administration’s abrupt withdrawal of troops from northeast Syria last month, a decision that paved the way for an attack on U.S.allied forces in the area, officials said Thursday.
In an internal memo, William Roebuck, the top American diplomat in northern Syria, takes the Trump administration to task for not doing more to prevent Turkey’s invasion or protect the Kurds, who fought alongside U.S. forces in the battle against the
Islamic State group, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
One of the officials described the memo, which was obtained and first revealed by The New York Times, as “lengthy and harsh.” The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
Roebuck’s memo highlights how President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the troops was deeply divisive, even within his own administration. The move was widely criticized by Democrats and Republicans as abandoning a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State.
Turkey invaded days after Trump ordered the U.S. special forces to leave.
In the memo quoted by the Times, Roebuck said there was no way to know if more pressure on Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would have stopped the operation.
“It’s a tough call, and the answer is probably not. But we won’t know because we didn’t try,” the Times quoted Roebuck as writing.
Trump’s ordered withdrawal from the northeast has been somewhat tempered by the deployment of forces to protect oil fields in Kurdish-held areas.