President Donald Trump pulled U.S. troops out of Syria and allowed Turkey to take over the battle against Islamic State despite warnings from within his own administration and French President Emmanuel Macron, according to his former national security adviser John Bolton.
Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a phone call on Dec. 14, 2018 that Bolton would craft a statement that the United States had won the fight against ISIS and was leaving Turkey to deal with the group’s remnants in Syria.
Bolton revealed details of the conversation, which preceded a Turkish military incursion into Syria that was opposed by many U.S. politicians and NATO allies, in his book ‘The Room Where It Happened’, which is due to be published next week. Ahval has obtained a copy of the publication.
After the Erdoğan call, Trump then asked Bolton to “work it out quietly but that we were leaving [Syria] because ISIS is finished”.
In a later phone call with Macron, Trump ignored the French president’s warnings about ISIS and the fate of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States and NATO against the armed jihadist group.
“Trump brushed him (Macron) aside, saying we were finished with ISIS, and that Turkey and Syria would take care of any remnants,” Bolton said. “Macron replied that Turkey was focused on attacking the Kurds, and would compromise with ISIS.”
Macron’s concerns were echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said “Erdoğan doesn’t care about ISIS,” Bolton said. Meanwhile, he said he and Pompeo agreed that the views of the United States and Turkey on the Kurds were “irreconcilable”.
Bolton said Erdoğan sought to reassure Trump about his treatment of the Kurds.
“Erdoğan took pains to say he loved the Kurds and vice versa, but added that the YPG-PYD-PKK (three Kurdish groups in Turkey and Syria, the nine initials of which Erdoğan rattled off as if spelling his own name) were manipulating the Kurds, and did not represent them.
“We had heard all this before, and it was standard Erdoğan regime propaganda,” Bolton said.
Bolton also said that Trump’s pledge to Erdoğan to get out of Syria was immediately preceded by an exchange of words about Turkish state-run Halkbank, which was under U.S. investigation for breaking sanctions on Iran.
“Trump started by saying we were getting very close to a resolution on Halkbank. He had just spoken to [Secretary of the Treasury] Mnuchin and Pompeo, and said we would be dealing with Erdoğan’s great son-in-law (Turkey’s Finance Minister) to get it off his shoulders,” Bolton said.
A judicial and Treasury investigation into Halkbank continues. An October indictment against Halkbank identifies Erdoğan and his son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, as unnamed co-conspirators.
Bolton also revealed information on Turkey’s demands on Gülen movement, the dispute over the detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson and the Halkbank case.