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United States Withdraws Troops from Syria, Leaving Kurds Vulnerable

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1 See Jean Galbraith, Contemporary Practice of the United States, 113 AJIL 394, 395 (2019) (also noting that the United States first entered the conflict in Syria in 2014). The Obama administration asserted domestic legal authority for using force in Syria based on the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force and claimed an international right to use force to respond in self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter to threats posed by ISIL. Id. at 394.

2 Id. at 397–99.

3 Sarah Dadouch, Turkey to Launch Offensive in Kurdish-Controlled Area in Northern Syria: Erdoğan, Reuters (Aug. 4, 2019), at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security-turkey/turkey-to-launch-offensive-in-kurdish-controlled-area-in-northern-syria-erdogan-idUSKCN1UU0GS. The Turkish government views Kurdish forces within Syria as closely connected with Kurdish separatists within Turkey, whom it considers terrorists. See Rod Nordland, U.S. Exit Seen as a Betrayal of the Kurds, and a Boon for ISIS, N.Y. Times (Dec. 19, 2018), at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/world/middleeast/syria-kurds-isis-us.html.

4 U.S. Mission Turkey, Statement on Joint Military Talks Regarding Syria (Aug. 7, 2019), at https://tr.usembassy.gov/statement-on-joint-military-talks-regarding-syria [https://perma.cc/D654-AN5Z].

5 Sarah El Deeb, Turkey, US Conduct “Safe Zone” Joint Patrols in North Syria, AP News (Sept. 8, 2019), at https://apnews.com/b6e7c9b282844b92bed9a2e5bc7703d9.

6 White House Press Release, Statement from the Press Secretary (Oct. 6, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-85 [https://perma.cc/4SS8-WTQC].

7 Id.

8 Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Oct. 7, 2019, 7:40 AM), at https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1181172457811697664 [https://perma.cc/XH8R-FLC3].

9 See Peter Baker & Lara Jakes, Trump Throws Middle East Policy Into Turmoil Over Syria, N.Y. Times (Oct. 7, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/us/politics/turkey-syria-trump.html; James McAuley & Rick Noack, Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Northern Syria Angers, Worries Europeans, Wash. Post (Oct. 7, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/trumps-pullout-of-us-troops-from-northern-syria-angers-worries-europeans/2019/10/07/7a2c89f2-e8fe-11e9-85c0-85a098e47b37_story.html; Eric Schmitt, Maggie Haberman & Edward Wong, President Endorses Turkish Military Operation in Syria, Shifting U.S. Policy, N.Y. Times (Oct. 7, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/us/politics/trump-turkey-syria.html.

10 H.R.J. Res. 77, 116th Cong. (2019).

11 Liz Sly, Sarah Dadouch & Asser Khattab, Syrian Kurds See American Betrayal and Warn Fight Against ISIS Is Now in Doubt, Wash. Post (Oct. 7, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/syrian-kurds-see-american-betrayal-and-warn-alliance-against-isis-is-now-in-doubt/2019/10/07/96c425da-e902-11e9-a329-7378fbfa1b63_story.html (also quoting a statement from Syrian Kurdish leaders that “[t]o disregard our partnership would also send a clear signal to all would-be partner forces of the United States that a U.S. alliance may not be trustworthy”).

12 Turkey-Syria Border: All the Latest Updates, Al Jazeera (Oct. 10, 2019), at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/turkey-syria-border-latest-updates-191008131745495.html.

13 Letter Dated 9 October 2019 from the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council, UN Doc. S/2019/804, at https://undocs.org/S/2019/804. The European Parliament passed a resolution describing Turkey's actions as “a grave violation of international law” that “is undermining the stability and security of the region as a whole, bringing further suffering to people already affected by war, causing the mass displacement of civilians, and could contribute to the re-emergence of [ISIL].” Resolution on the Turkish Military Operation in Northeast Syria and Its Consequences, Eur. Parl. Doc. 2886(RSP) (2019), at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/RC-9-2019-0123_EN.html.

14 Read Trump's Letter to President Erdoğan of Turkey, N.Y. Times (Oct. 16, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/16/us/politics/trump-letter-turkey.html. That same day, Trump stated that the United States was relocating “some of the most dangerous [detained ISIL] fighters” out of the area. Donald J. Trump, Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Executive Orders on Transparency in Federal Guidance and Enforcement, 2019 Daily Comp. Pres. Doc. No. 705, at 7 (Oct. 9).

15 Exec. Order No. 13,894, 84 Fed. Reg. 55,851 (Oct. 14, 2019).

16 Id.

17 U.S. Dep't of Treasury Press Release, Treasury Designates Turkish Ministries and Senior Officials in Response to Military Action in Syria (Oct. 14, 2019), at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm792 [https://perma.cc/NU5X-QULW].

18 Id.

19 U.S. Dep't of Justice Press Release, Turkish Bank Charged in Manhattan Federal Court for Its Participation in a Multibillion-Dollar Iranian Sanctions Evasion Scheme (Oct. 15, 2019), at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/turkish-bank-charged-manhattan-federal-court-its-participation-multibillion-dollar-iranian [https://perma.cc/34FZ-XDF7].

20 Ben Hubbard, Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt & Patrick Kingsley, Abandoned by U.S. in Syria, Kurds Find New Ally in American Foe, N.Y. Times (Oct. 13, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/13/world/middleeast/syria-turkey-invasion-isis.html.

21 Ben Hubbard, Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt & Patrick Kingsley, In Syria, Russia Is Pleased to Fill an American Void, N.Y. Times (Oct. 15, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/world/middleeast/kurds-syria-turkey.html.

22 Annie Karni, Lara Jakes & Patrick Kingsley, Turkey Agrees to Pause Fighting, but Not to Withdraw Forces from Northern Syria, N.Y. Times (Oct. 17, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/17/world/middleeast/trump-turkey-invasion-syria.html.

23 White House Press Release, The United States and Turkey Agree to Ceasefire in Northeast Syria (Oct. 17, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/united-states-turkey-agree-ceasefire-northeast-syria [https://perma.cc/Z3DK-7LX2].

24 Id.

25 Kareem Fahim, Karen DeYoung & Missy Ryan, Russia and Turkey Reach Deal to Push Kurdish Forces Out of Zone in Northern Syria, Wash. Post (Oct. 22, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/turkeys-erdogan-meets-with-putin-in-russia-to-discuss-syrian-operation/2019/10/22/764abcea-f43f-11e9-b2d2-1f37c9d82dbb_story.html. For an informative graphic detailing the changes in control over northern Syria during this short period, see Allison McCann, Anjali Singhvi & Jeremy White, How the New Syria Took Shape, N.Y. Times (Oct. 30, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/30/world/middleeast/syria-turkey-maps.html.

26 White House Press Release, Remarks by President Trump on the Situation in Northern Syria (Oct. 23, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-situation-northern-syria/ [https://perma.cc/M2KP-74VB].

27 Id.

28 Id.

29 Id.

30 White House Press Release, Statement from the President on the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Oct. 27, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-death-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi [https://perma.cc/YD4E-CWFC].

31 Ben Hubbard & Eric Schmitt, As Kurds Tracked ISIS Leader, U.S. Withdrawal Threw Raid into Turmoil, N.Y. Times (Oct. 28, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/28/world/middleeast/isis-kurds-baghdadi.html.

32 Humeyra Pamuk & Andrew Osborn, U.S. Wants to Bolster Fight Against Islamic State After Its Leader's Death, Reuters (Oct. 28, 2019), at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-baghdadi/u-s-wants-to-bolster-fight-against-islamic-state-after-its-leaders-death-idUSKBN1X71DY.

33 White House Press Release, Remarks by President Trump on the Death of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Oct. 27, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-death-isis-leader-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi [https://perma.cc/2DGA-U7YS].

34 White House Press Release, Remarks by President Trump and President Erdoğan of Turkey in Joint Press Conference (Nov. 13, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-president-erdogan-turkey-joint-press-conference [https://perma.cc/FZ2C-LMG3].

35 Id.

36 Id.

37 UN Sec'y-Gen. Press Release, Readout of the Secretary-General's Meeting with H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey (Nov. 1, 2019), at https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/readout/2019-11-01/readout-of-the-secretary-general%E2%80%99s-meeting-he-mr-recep-tayyip-erdogan-president-of-turkey.

38 Id.

39 See Dominic Evans, Turkey's Plan to Settle Refugees in Northeast Syria Alarms Allies, Reuters (Oct. 8, 2019), at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security-turkey-refugees-graphi/turkeys-plan-to-settle-refugees-in-northeast-syria-alarms-allies-idUSKBN1WN28J (noting widespread skepticism regarding this plan); see also Lama Fakih, Turkey's “Safe Zone” Would Be Anything But, Hum. Rts. Watch (Oct. 11, 2019), at https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/10/11/turkeys-safe-zone-would-be-anything (stating that “Turkey's plan to create a 32-kilometer ‘safe zone’ in Syria where it could relocate one million Syrian refugees is woefully misguided and dangerous—and bound to fail”).

40 Thursday's Daily Brief: DR Congo Warlord Sentenced, Iraq Protest Latest, UN Food Outlook Report, Syrian Humanitarian Update, Tech and the Food Chain, UN News (Nov. 7, 2019), at https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/11/1050921.

United States Withdraws Troops from Syria, Leaving Kurds Vulnerable

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