Trump Team Member James Jeffrey Spars With Kurdish Diplomat

Matthew Petti

State Department officials and Syrian-Kurdish diplomats described to lawmakers contradicting accounts of the months leading up to President Donald Trump’s decision to give Turkey a green light to attack the Syrian-Kurds.

Officials on both sides of the U.S.-Kurdish relationship aired different versions of events during back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill. Ambassador James Jeffrey, who oversees anti-ISIS operations for the Trump administration, downplayed the extent of the Turkish attack—and the Trump administration’s role in giving Turkey permission to steamroll its neighbors. But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces say they received a different message from Jeffrey’s team in the months leading up to the withdrawal.

Ahmed, executive president of the SDF’s political wing, told the House Oversight Committee that “we received promises from America.” Ahmed claimed that the U.S. team had told her that U.S. forces would stay in Syria until the defeat of ISIS and a political solution to the Syrian Civil War.

“We didn't expect them to fight on our behalf, but we thought they wouldn't allow [an attack],” Ahmed said. “Even one day before [the] attack, we were under the assumption that the airspace was going to be closed.”

Jeffrey said that the Syrian Kurds were never promised U.S. military protection.

“I know of no decision at any point in either administration to use military force to deter Turkey from going into the northeast,” Jeffrey claimed when he addressed the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We never communicated to Turkey that we would use military force to stop them from moving across their border.”

“It’s possible that America was not there for the protection of the Kurds,” Ahmed later told the National Interest. “But America could have not allowed another country to launch an attack.”

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