Do Trump's claims of European fighters in Daesh ring true?

Published 18.02.2019 23:28
Updated 19.02.2019 00:06

U.S. President Donald Trump called on European countries to take back over 800 Daesh fighters that they captured in Syria and put them on trial. Trump insists that Daesh is about to be eradicated, and the remaining areas still under the control of this gory terrorist group will soon be conquered. Trump had already announced that he will bring U.S. troops back home as soon as Daesh is completely defeated. It seems there are only two players who really want a U.S. pullback: Trump and Turkey. Russia does not really want a U.S. retreat because the Americans carry the burden in the fight against Daesh. Bashar Assad also seems to be accommodating the U.S. in order to not be completely left in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Iran is paradoxically happy with the U.S. presence as it justifies the Iranian presence in Syria. As for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), they are delighted with the protection the U.S. troops provide them.

Turkey is asking for an American pullout because of this very protection. Ankara believes the U.S. is eager to create a political entity in northeastern Syria, a structure that would constantly threaten Turkey's territorial integrity.

All Trump needs is an achievement he will be able to present as a military victory back home. The eradication of Daesh would indeed constitute a victory, but the victory would be incomplete without exposing those who have constructed Daesh in the first place. Maybe in the years to come, we will learn who played a role in the creation of this organization. We will probably learn that a coalition of states have backed this terrorist group as part of their Syria strategy. Trump probably has some ideas about who these countries are.

Trump emphasizes that hundreds of Europeans have joined Daesh. This is a way of saying to European countries that while American soldiers were fighting against this group, Europeans did allow some of their citizens to enroll as Daesh militants. According to Trump, European governments did nothing to stop these people from going to Syria to take arms against the U.S., and they even encouraged them to leave Europe.

While saying "Europeans," we do not know exactly which countries he is pointing out. But given the U.S.' intelligence capacities, we can guess he has precise information about these countries and their ambiguous attitudes.

Trump probably thinks that some European countries do not really want Daesh to be eradicated. They were indeed glad that this group's actions dragged the U.S. into the Syrian theater, the only country capable of counterbalancing the Russian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. The European countries are not at all disposed to use their soldiers and money in the Syrian conflict but in case of an American retreat, they will have to do so. In other words, Europeans may still think that Daesh remains useful leverage; however, Trump has already decided to put an end to this game.

Trump has repeatedly said if Europe needs protection from Russia, it simply has to spend more on defense. Trump had enough of Europeans who want to get important gains in exchange for insignificant sacrifices.

This is how Trump thinks, but it is not sure if his entire administration thinks that way as well. It is a fact that some people in Washington want European forces to take over the fight against Daesh in Syria. In other words, they want the deployment of NATO forces, not the Turkish ones of course, to give a hand to the PYD in the areas the latter is controlling. It is not clear if this strategy aims to deteriorate Turkey's relations with Europe more or to push Turkey completely toward Russia. They better notice that each European power who would replace the U.S. in Syria may one day strike a deal with the Russians. It is odd to observe how often the U.S. establishment makes move after move that serves Putin's interests at the end of the day.

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