Trump giving ‘new life’ to Daesh, former envoy says

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria was made without deliberation, left allies “bewildered” and has rejuvenated Daesh, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh, Brett McGurk said on January 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Trump giving ‘new life’ to Daesh, former envoy says

  • McGurk warned a US withdrawal would shore up Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran
  • He said Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria was made without deliberation

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria was made without deliberation, left allies “bewildered” and has rejuvenated Daesh, the official formerly in charge of fighting the militants said Friday.
Brett McGurk, who quit as America’s envoy to the anti-Daesh coalition after Trump declared victory over the group last month, warned a US withdrawal would shore up President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.
And “the Islamic State and other extremist groups will fill the void opened by our departure, regenerating their capacity to threaten our friends in Europe — as they did throughout 2016 — and ultimately our own homeland,” McGurk wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post, referring to another name for Daesh.
McGurk, a Barack Obama-era appointee whom Trump kept on, said he was in the US embassy in Baghdad on December 17 when he got an urgent call from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informing him of Trump’s decision.
Two days later, Trump tweeted, “We have defeated Daesh in Syria,” referring to another acronym for Daesh.
“But that was not true, and we have continued to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State,” McGurk said.
The decision came just days after National Security Adviser John Bolton had suggested an indefinite US troop presence in Syria, and as McGurk and then defense secretary Jim Mattis met coalition partners to confirm commitments for at least the next year.
“My counterparts in coalition capitals were bewildered,” McGurk said.
“The president’s decision to leave Syria was made without deliberation, consultation with allies or Congress, assessment of risk, or appreciation of facts.”
Mattis quit after Trump’s decision.
McGurk said Trump had made his decision after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had said Istanbul would lead the fight against Daesh remnants in Syria.
But Turkey has also vowed to take action against US-backed Syrian Kurds who have conducted the fight against Daesh and lost thousands of troops as they slowly wrested territory from the militants.
“The irony is that defeating the Islamic State is what the president said from the beginning was his goal,” McGurk said.
“His recent choices, unfortunately, are already giving the Islamic State — and other American adversaries — new life.”
Just one month after Trump declared victory over Daesh, the militants claimed responsibility for a brutal attack in Syria this week.
Four Americans, including two services personnel, were among those killed when a suicide bomber hit a restaurant in the key city of Manbij in Syria’s north — the deadliest attack against US forces since they first deployed in the war-torn nation four years ago.
The Pentagon on Friday identified three of those killed.
Among them was Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent of New York. Her death marked the first time a female US service member was killed in Syria.

READ MORE: US names Americans killed in Manbij, Syria 'Daesh attack'


Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

Updated 29 min 44 sec ago
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Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday suggested the mosque in Athens should open with minarets if the Greek premier wants to reopen a seminary in Istanbul.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Turkey this month and visited the disputed landmarks of Hagia Sophia and the now-closed Greek Orthodox Halki seminary.
Tsipras said during the visit to the seminary located on Heybeli island off Istanbul on February 6 he hoped to reopen the school next time with Erdogan.
Future priests of the Constantinople diocese had been trained at the seminary, which was closed in 1971 after tensions between Ankara and Athens over Cyprus.
Erdogan on Saturday complained that the Fethiye Mosque in Athens had no minarets despite Greek insistence that it would open.
The mosque was built in 1458 during the Ottoman occupation of Greece but has not been used as a mosque since 1821.
“Look you want something from us, you want the Halki seminary. And I tell you (Greece), come, let’s open the Fethiye Mosque,” Erdogan said during a rally in the northwestern province of Edirne ahead of local elections on March 31.
“They said, ‘we are opening the mosque’ but I said, why isn’t there a minaret? Can a church be a church without a bell tower?” he said, describing his talks with Tsipras.
“We say, you want to build a bell tower? Come and do it... But what is an essential part of our mosques? The minarets,” the Turkish president added.
Erdogan said Tsipras told him he was wary of criticism from the Greek opposition.
After the independence war against Ottomans began in 1821, the minaret is believed by some to have been destroyed because it was a symbol of the Ottoman occupation.
Ankara had returned land taken from the seminary in 1943 but there is still international pressure on Turkey to reopen it.
Erdogan has previously said that its reopening is dependent on reciprocal steps from Greece to enhance the rights of the Turkish minority.