It has been almost three weeks since the president ordered the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeast Syria. The move allowed the Turkish military and its proxies to swiftly invade the area, setting off a cascade of events that has forced America’s Syrian-Kurdish partners to strike a deal with the Assad regime, exposed Kurdish soldiers and civilians to a barrage of attacks, enabled more than 100 ISIS fighters to escape Kurdish detention facilities, and facilitated the growth of Russian and Iranian influence in the region.
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On Oct. 29, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Administration’s Policy Objectives for a Turbulent Middle East.” The hearing will feature testimony from David Schenker, the assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, and Michael Harvey, the assistant administrator for the Middle East at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from observation posts in northeastern Syria has paved the way for Turkey’s military offensive into areas inhabited by Syrian Kurds and other minority communities. In a little over two weeks, this region has gone from relative stability to a state of conflict, uncertainty and fragility. Since 2016 we have conducted hundreds of interviews with Syrians from all backgrounds, including current and former members of the Islamic State. We filmed and catalogued the rise of the Islamic State across the region and the caliphate’s subsequent demise.
On Oct. 23, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will host a hearing titled, "The Betrayal of Our Syrian Kurdish Partners: How Will American Foreign Policy and Leadership Recover?" The committee will hear testimony from James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria engagement and the special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and Matthew Palmer, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
On Oct. 16, the Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism hosted a hearing on recommendations for U.S. Policy with the co-chairs of the Syria Study Group following the release of their final report. The livestream is available below.
Editor’s Note: Perhaps the biggest counterterrorism challenge facing European states is how to handle their citizens who went to fight in Iraq and Syria and now seek to return. Europe's response has been muddled, with many states reluctant to take responsibility for their nationals yet not advancing an alternative policy. Thomas Renard and Rik Coolsaet of the Egmont Institute assess the problems European states face and outline ways to make the return of foreign fighters less risky and more sustainable.
President Trump’s sudden announcement that the U.S. would withdraw forces from along the Syria-Turkey border has already had dramatic consequences.
The White House issued a stunning statement on Oct. 6:
Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey by telephone. Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.
Editor’s Note: Even as the Syrian war winds down, the millions of refugees it spawned show little sign of returning. Experts have long feared that these refugees will spread instability and, in poorer countries like Jordan, foster economic resentment. MIT’s Elizabeth Parker-Magyar finds that in Jordan such resentment is limited at best. The refugees remain welcome, and any economic resentment is directed at the government.