According to Bolton, US President Donald Trump told him that he would “not allow Turkey to kill the Kurds.”
“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States, at a minimum, so they don’t endanger our troops but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered,” he said.
Bolton also stressed there was no set timetable for US withdrawal from Syria, adding that Washington was not interested in maintaining a long-term military presence in the country.
“The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement,” he noted.
Bolton made his comments while on a visit to Jerusalem, where he is meeting with Israeli officials to explain Donald Trump’s sudden announcement last month that American forces stationed in Syria would be coming home.
Trump had previously stated that the US’ sole mission in Syria – the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) – had been completed. Bolton’s statement appears to add a new condition before withdrawing: receiving assurances from Ankara that US-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria will not face an assault from Turkish forces.
Although Trump vowed to bring US troops home as soon as possible, bitter disagreements between Washington and Ankara over the status of the Kurdish militias will likely bring the withdrawal to a halt. Turkey has labeled the Kurdish YPG – which receives support from the Pentagon – as a terrorist group.
Bolton will travel to Turkey on Monday, where he is expected to lay out Washington’s demands to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “the importance of ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds” was “still part of the American mission” in Syria. His comment was condemned by Ankara, which creatively argued that Pompeo was comparing all Kurds to terrorists.
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