Se­nior en­voy in Syria highly crit­i­cal of troop with­drawal

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD -

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 on­lied 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.

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