Donald Trump claimed on Monday that he had consulted the Joint Chiefs of Staff before his decision to allow Turkey to launch a military operation in Syria that experts will lead to the slaughter of American allies, but Trump’s statement contradicts with a new report saying that the Pentagon was “blindsided” by the decision.
The White House announced late on Sunday that Turkey would be allowed to launch its long-planned military operation in northern Syria and that American troops would no longer be in the “immediate area” as Turkey launched the attack. As The Hill reported, the roughly 1,000 American troops deployed in northern Syria have been working closely with Kurdish-led forces to combat ISIS, but those Kurdish troops are now likely to be the target of the Turkish military.
The decision has sparked bipartisan criticism, with many Republicans joining Democrats in calling the decision a betrayal of American allies and an impulsive decision from Trump. When asked about this criticism by reporters on Monday, Trump claimed that the decision was well thought out, and he said that he consulted with top officials.
“I consulted with everybody. I always consult with everybody,” he said when asked if he consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
That appeared to conflict with reports that Trump’s decision came as a surprise to the Pentagon, which had no forewarning of the move. As Fox News reported, even top Pentagon officials were “completely blindsided” and “shocked” by the order, which came after Trump spoke with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The report noted that American troops had already begun withdrawing from areas along the Syrian border with Turkey, leaving Kurdish-led forces there alone. The Kurdish forces had been fighting alongside American troops against ISIS and were responsible for guarding ISIS soldiers taken prisoner over the course of the five-year conflict. There are now fears that these Kurdish troops could abandon the prisoners to focus on defense against Turkish troops, allowing the ISIS troops to escape and regroup.
Donald Trump has come under fire from even some of his biggest allies, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who called it an impulsive decision that will undo all of the gains that America and its allies have made in the region. He joined others in calling on Trump to reconsider the move and continue to offer protection to Kurdish allies. Graham also predicted that the move would lead to a resurgence of ISIS in the region.