As U.S. officials feared would happen, about 1,000 foreign-born ISIS supporters have escaped from a prison camp after they attacked some of the remaining guards and fled.
Kurdish forces in Syria have mostly abandoned the fight against ISIS and rushed troops who were engaging the terrorists to the Turkish front.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said Turkish warplanes struck villages near the camp on Sunday. They didn’t provide the exact number of residents who fled the camp, but said clashes broke out between Turkey-backed Syrian fighters and Kurdish forces.
Roughly 12,000 people, including nearly 1,000 foreign women with links to ISIS and their children, live in the camp. The town of Ain Eissa is also home to one of the largest U.S.-led coalition bases in northeastern Syria.
The Kurdish forces, who partnered with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, say they may not be able to maintain detention facilities holding thousands of militants as they struggle to stem the Turkish advance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismisses the report as “disinformation.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday dismissed reports that Islamic State prisoners in northeastern Syria had escaped as a result of Turkey’s offensive in the region, saying they were “disinformation” aimed at provoking the West.
The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria said on Sunday that 785 foreigners affiliated with Islamic State had managed to escape a camp where they were being held following Turkish shelling on Sunday.
Erdogan was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency as saying that these reports were false and aimed at provoking the United States and other western countries.
Truth is the first casualty of war — on both sides. For all we know, both sides could be lying.
But what’s certain is Turkey’s continued defiance of NATO allies and most other nations in the world in going to war against the Kurds. Their desire to carve out a “safe zone” in Syria is a poorly camouflaged excuse to attack the Kurdish Peshmerga, whom they believe to be affiliated with the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK — the U.S. recognized terrorist organization fighting in Turkey.
That defiance will surely cost Erdogan and the Turks as France and Germany have already cut off arms sales and, according to the president, the U.S. is readying sanctions.
Dealing with @LindseyGrahamSC and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey. Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2019
Trump said in a Sunday tweet that he has been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is highly critical of Trump’s decision to move troops out of northern Syria. Graham has called for Congress to sanction Turkey and suspend its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization over attacks against the Kurdish people, whom the United States considers allies.
“Dealing with @LindseyGrahamSC and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey. Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!” Trump said.
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation with Graham to sanction Turkey over its ongoing attacks against Kurds, who helped fight the Islamic State alongside the U.S.
Sanctions won’t slow the Turkish advance, nor will they force Erdogan to bring his troops home. But NATO may follow up those sanctions with a suspension of Turkey’s membership in the organization.
Erdogan will not pay a very high price for his aggression. Eventually, all will be forgiven and forgotten — at least by the U.S. and NATO. What the Kurds will remember will be a different story.