By Hollie McKay
Published January 08, 2019
U.S national security adviser John Bolton has departed Turkey despite not meeting with the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who was angered over American demands Turkey not attack Kurdish fighters after the U.S pulls out of Syria.
Erdogan has accused Bolton of making a “serious mistake” in complicating Trump’s Syria drawdown with conditions, by mandating final plans and a U.S departure would not happen until Turkey guaranteed it would not target Kurdish fighters with the People's Protection Units (YPG). Turkey views that group as an offshoot of the Iraq-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a separatist group.
President Trump abruptly announced late last year the U.S would completely pull out its 2000 troops from Syria, tweeting that the mission to defeat ISIS was completed. While that assertion has been largely debated by the international community, given that the terrorist group still holds land pockets in the war-ravaged country, Trump has since doubled-down, saying NATO ally Turkey will take charge of the final military clean-up.
The move quickly prompted resignations from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and top-ranking special envoy to defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk. And many Republicans in Congress joined Democrats in questioning Trump's call for a quick withdrawal of the troops.
The issue has also drawn criticism and concern for the YPG, which was instrumental in partnering with the U.S as the ground force to defeat ISIS. But that hasn't swayed the Turkish government, which calls the YPG a terrorist group.
“If they are terrorists, we will do what is necessary no matter where they come from,” Erdogan told his parliament, insisting that they will not be making “comprises on this point” and that he and Trump had come to a clear understanding until “different voices started emerging from different segments of the administration.”
While Erdogan claimed there was no need for him to meet with Bolton on the matter, the national security advisor is said to have met with other top Turkish officials with talks centering on how the United States would collect the weapons distributed to the Kurdish fighters throughout the anti-ISIS campaign.
According to Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, Ankara is also seeking the U.S to either hand over their military bases in Syria, or destroy them.
And in a New York Times opinion article on Monday, Erdogan asserted that Turkey is the “only country with the power and commitment” to complete the task of defeating terrorists in the region and is “volunteering to shoulder the heavy burden at a critical time in history.”