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US, Turkey Deal Has Spurs Questions    10/18 06:09

   President Donald Trump hailed it as a great day for civilization, but the 
agreement hammered out in Ankara, Turkey, between U.S. and Turkish leaders 
spawned more questions than answers.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump hailed it as a great day for 
civilization, but the agreement hammered out in Ankara, Turkey, between U.S. 
and Turkish leaders spawned more questions than answers.

   Thursday's deal called for a five-day pause in fighting between Turkish and 
Kurdish fighters and put a temporary halt to the battle along the Syrian 
border. It also gave the Turks the 20-mile-deep (32-kilometer-deep) safe zone 
in Syria that leaders in Ankara had sought for months. But what it meant for 
U.S. forces withdrawing from Syria remained unclear, and some fighting 
continued Friday morning in a northeast Syrian border town.

   A look at the key provisions of the deal and remaining uncertainties:

   ___

   THE AGREEMENT

   A U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence met with Turkish leaders, 
including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for more than four hours Thursday and 
agreed to the five-day cease-fire in the Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in 
northern Syria. The arrangement said the Syrian Kurdish fighters would withdraw 
from what has been called a safe zone that is about 20-miles deep into Syria 
and stretches across about 78 miles (125 kilometers) of the central portion of 
the border between the two countries.

   But almost immediately there were disagreements over what to call the deal 
and what it meant. Pence and Trump routinely referred to it as a cease-fire. 
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu rejected that term and called it a 
"pause" in fighting, because, he said, cease-fires are only possible between 
"two legitimate sides." Cavusoglu also said that the Turks would halt their 
operation only "after the terrorist elements depart" from northeast Syria.

   What also remained unclear is what the Turkish-backed militias of Syrian 
fighters will do and how much control the Turkish military will have or try to 
exert over them.

   ___

   WHAT THE TURKS GET

   In return for the cease-fire, the Turks will get what they have wanted all 
along: control of the safe zone in Syria and, if the cease-fire holds, a halt 
to the economic sanctions that Trump announced Monday when he warned that he 
could obliterate Turkey's economy.

   ___

   THE U.S. WITHDRAWAL

   There were mixed signals Thursday over what the agreement means for U.S. 
forces that began a withdrawal from Syria earlier this week as fighting between 
the Turkish and Kurdish forces escalated and began to threaten the safety of 
American troops. U.S. officials said the ongoing withdrawal was continuing and 
would probably take a couple of weeks.

   Pence reiterated that, as Trump has said, the U.S. will not have "military 
personnel on the ground" but other diplomatic and humanitarian aid would go on. 
He also said that the U.S. will "facilitate" the orderly withdrawal of the 
Kurdish forces from the safe zone that is already beginning. And Trump said 
that the U.S. will continue to watch the Islamic State and that the Kurdish 
fighters will control that monitoring with U.S. supervision. Pentagon officials 
did not provide an explanation of how that would work.

   ___

   ISLAMIC STATE GROUP

   As the U.S. withdraws, a fundamental question is what the battle to prevent 
a reemergence of the Islamic State will look like. U.S. officials have provided 
little guidance, but they note that the U.S. can, if needed, launch strikes 
from bases in Iraq near the Syria border. In addition, the U.S. is leaving, at 
least for now, 200 to 300 troops at the Al Tanf base in southern Syria.

   ___

   ISLAMIC STATE PRISONERS

   One of the biggest threats in the conflict has been the potential that 
thousands of imprisoned Islamic State group fighters could escape. Kurdish 
forces have been guarding the prisons, but some fighters have left to join the 
battle along the border. And shelling in some areas may have led to the escape 
of fewer than 100 detainees.

   Trump said that the detained will be controlled by "different groups." But 
he added that the U.S. "will be watching. We will be in charge. And they will 
be under very, very powerful and strict control." That may be difficult to do 
if U.S. troops are not in Syria.


(KR)

 
 
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