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But around that same time, Turkish officials were privately saying that they saw things very differently: They said they perceived a sharp division between Mr. Trump and other American officials — most notably generals in the United States Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East. While it was clear the generals wanted to bar Turkey from the safe zone and keep American troops there, Mr. Trump clearly wanted the troops out, they said, and in the end he might get his way.
Mr. Erdogan had traveled to New York with the intention of talking about Syria and the Kurds with Mr. Trump in a private meeting. He attended a group dinner hosted by Mr. Trump, but the two did not have a formal meeting there. Mr. Trump did say at one event that Mr. Erdogan had “become a friend of mine.” The telephone call between the two on Sunday might have been organized as a substitute for the meeting that never took place.
“This looks to be another reckless decision made without deliberation or consultation following a call with a foreign leader,” Mr. McGurk said after hearing of Mr. Trump’s decision on Sunday. “The White House statement bears no relation to facts on the ground. If implemented, it will significantly increase risk to our personnel, as well as hasten ISIS’s resurgence.”
Turkish officials pointed to Mr. Trump’s favorable exchanges with Mr. Erdogan during the G20 summit meeting in Japan in June as another sign of a strong relationship between the two leaders. That bilateral meeting was more about a different security flash point between the United States and Turkey — the purchase by Turkey of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. But Mr. Trump has largely brushed that issue aside.
The White House statement on Sunday came as the Islamic State is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at an allied-run tent camp, American military, counterterrorism and intelligence officers say.
Though Mr. Trump hailed a total defeat of the Islamic State this year — and asserted its territorial demise in Sunday night’s statement — defense officials in the region see things differently, acknowledging that what remains of the terrorist group is here to stay.
Over the past several months, ISIS has made inroads into the sprawling Al Hol tent camp in northeast Syria, and there is no ready plan to deal with the 70,000 people there, including thousands of family members of ISIS fighters.
Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠