President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan was so brash and seemingly without strategy that some American allies are questioning whether the president was blackmailed, according to a former NATO commander.
In a CNN segment Monday, Wesley Clark, a retired Army general and former Democratic presidential candidate, said there was no apparent strategic logic for the move that critics view as an abdication to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"You have to ask why was the decision made?" Clarke said on Christmas Eve. "People around the world are asking this and some of our friends and allies in the Middle East are asking, did Erdogan blackmail the president? Was there a payoff or something? Why would a guy make a decision like this? Because all the recommendations were against it. And it looked like all the facts were against it, too."
"We're not quite finished with we're not taking a lot of casualties over there," he added. "The Kurds have been reliable allies. Why do this right now?"
Trump’s decision to pull from the region in quick fashion will leave 10,000 Kurdish forces vulnerable to attack by Turkey, the Examiner noted.
A senior U.S. official told Jennifer Griffin of Fox News that Trump's announcement Wednesday came after Erdogan told him in a phone call to pull out of Syria because Turkish forces were preparing to assault people tied to the Kurdistan Workers Party, a separatist group the U.S. calls a terrorist organization.
Following another phone call with the Turkish president, Trump tweeted that Erdogan assured him Turkey will clean up whatever is left of ISIS:
"President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria....and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right 'next door.' Our troops are coming home!" Trump tweeted Sunday after another phone call with Erdogan.