Pentagon officials are said to be full of questions today after reports of President Trump planning to order the State Department and Pentagon to develop plans within 90 days for the establishment of “safe zones” in Syria, unclear exactly what is being planned. The order has not, as yet been issued, and was absent from the final version of the refugee order it was initially reported to come from.
Publicly, officials are avoiding any comment at all on the idea, saying it is too early in the planning stages to discuss the idea. Privately, however, officials are being quoted in the press saying the whole idea is “ambiguous,” and that they aren’t sure if Trump wants secure camps in those zones, or no-fly zones, or both.
The question of safe zones has been heavily pushed by Turkey for years, with Turkish officials envisioning the idea of turning northern Syria into a region to house all the refugees they’ve had to take in during the civil war so far. The call has tended to fall apart, however, when people consider what it would take.
US officials have previously suggested it would take a massive ground force to secure this safe zone from attacks, and that even a limited no-fly zone would risk starting a war with Russia. This scared the Obama Administration away from trying anything.
And indeed, the no-fly zone idea was scorned by Trump during the debates, specifically over the risk of a war with Russia. At the same time, Trump has repeatedly insisted he wants to have safe zones as a humanitarian measure, but as for how this will work, it seems the Pentagon is as in the dark as the rest of us are. That Trump withdrew the order from his executive order may suggest he is even backing away from the idea entirely.