John Bolton, the US national security adviser, is in Turkey to discuss the key aspects of a US troop pullout from Syria. The meeting scheduled for Tuesday, is likely to have Turkish officials in Ankara, and veer around the conditions put by the US for troop withdrawal from Syria.
The presence of Bolton and Gen Joseph Dunford (chairman of the joint chiefs of staff) in Ankara are seen as an attempt by the US to reassure its political allies about the troop pullout announced by President Donald Trump in mid-December.
John Bolton basically has to clean up the mess left by Trump’s rash decision where, the President had declared on Twitter that the ISIS has been defeated in Syria, and America will bring home its 2,000 troops. The announcement that was taken after a telephonic conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had sent allies, US lawmakers and the administration into a tizzy. None of the core officials including, US defence secretary James Mattis, were in the know about the pullout. Political allies of the US expressed strong dissent over Trump’s decision.
The pullout was decided at the behest of Erdogan, who wanted Trump to leave the counter-terrorist engagement in northern Syria to Turkey. But the backlash and sharp criticism of Trump’s abrupt decision made the President retreat on his plans, and after several flip flops, Bolton officially declared that troops will definitely return home, but not before the ISIS is uprooted in Syria. Also, in an absolute U-turn, Bolton asked Turkey not to go offensive on Kurdish Syrian firefighters, who are allies of the US.
While on a visit to Jerusalem on Sunday, Bolton stated that withdrawing the US troops rely on the conditions of Syria and on the actions Turkey takes.
“Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. And once that’s done, then you talk about a timetable,” Bolton said.
Turkey, clearly not happy about being told how to go about with the Kurdish fighters, whom it considers terrorists and a nuisance, has criticized Bolton for insisting that Ankara let the Kurdish be.
There has been a rising tension between Turkey and the US, and it is not clear who Bolton will be meeting in Ankara. Officially, there has been no confirmation about the timing or the representatives who shall sit with Bolton.