- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2019

President Trump’s special representative for the global coalition to defeat Islamic State told a Senate panel Tuesday that he was not consulted prior to the administration’s announcement to withdraw U.S. forces from a key buffer zone between Turkey and Syria.

Ambassador James Jeffrey told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday that he “was not personally consulted before” the Pentagon was ordered to move forces out of the region, clearing the path for a Turkish military offensive in northeast Syria in a region that is heavily populated by American-backed Kurds.

The decision was met with surprise and criticism by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have since condemned the move for abandoning a key ally that had led the ground war against ISIS in Syria.

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Mr. Jeffrey, a veteran diplomat who came out of retirement to serve as the administration’s special envoy to Syria, said Ankara “acted unwisely and dangerously” by launching its offensive in the zone “despite warning after warning and incentive after incentive” by the Trump administration.

His comments came as a cease-fire deal that was agreed to last week between the U.S. and Turkey expired and a new deal between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin covering the same disputed territory was formally announced.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Russian military police and Syria border guards on Wednesday will begin pushing back Kurdish forces from a buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

The foreign minister explained that after roughly six days, “joint Russian-Turkish patrols will start in the west and the east” of the buffer zone.

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